Room ★★★

Room takes on a shocking premise of a woman and her son, confined within a condensed shed, stripped of their freedom and provided barely enough of their necessities to ensure survival. We meet these characters with their relationships with one another, including their captor, already established, a banality in their way of life, a sense of acceptability in the abuse that comes before their way, almost as if coming into a shared agreement of their survivability for her body and soul.

The child however possesses the most interesting arc, born onto the life of this singular space, lessoned by his mother fractured truths in the hopes of greater understanding, and possibly shield him from the trauma that would have come if given the entire truth of their situation. He demonstrates an understanding of the Room’s routine, and television acts as a portal to a world that through his eyes feels more imaginary than one would normally perceive it to be. His life within the room is restrictive but comforting, as the only method of survival, there is no reference point that he is able to contrast such a lifestyle with, unlike his mother, who has spent most of her years in normalcy, a life that had greater luxuries than what she has been provided with since her stay in the Room.

Under Lenny Abrahamson’s direction, the atmosphere is tamed, it observes these creatures survive, but never enduring through substantial pain as they interact with their setting and the man who has placed them there all these years; it does not shoot for that common dramatic flair that would leave its audience aching as they endure through this life day in and day out, and I guess through that, I felt apathetic towards the entire film, an experience that feels to restrained to allow its emotions to be more palpable, internalised but not conveyed strong enough to leave a significant mark on me.

Room is a film of two halves, the first is the conditions that these two characters face in their claustrophobic and simple environment, while the latter shows them finally stretching, embarking on new experiences, to assimilate themselves back to the conditions of normal society, fighting the demons that linger beneath them, a mixture of confusion and vulnerability that was much more impacting than they had anticipated. The film is bold for narratively expanding its arcs, and does so while still swimming deeply in the relationship between the bond of the mother and child, emphasising further the performances of its two leading cast members. It is brave of Abrahamson to not shift its genre towards shades of darkness, notably one of a thriller mould, as such a premise could easily invite such expectations; instead as the film enters into areas of tension, it manages to bring a sense of wonder and penetrative quality to its observation.

Room no doubt earns its acting merits, but as a collective whole, it is a film that lacks that needed dramatic push that would have me waist deep in the emotional turmoil and confusion that rests within its characters. It is a greater push in Abrahamson’s ability as a filmmaker, but unlike Frank, that was a film that had a personality that would resonate and linger in one’s mind; here we find Room in a safe zone that only occasionally hits emotional punches, many would find themselves in deep adoration towards this film, and I can understand that, but personally I’ll just be in the corner away from the raving crowd.

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