*LOTS of spoilers*
“Hello Jack, Thanks for saving our little girl.” says Joan Allen upon seeing her grandson Jacob Tremblay (who play Jack so astonishingly that you want to cleave through the screen and smother him with hugs and kisses) for the first time in a hospital. This line defines the heart of the film. How a 5 year old kid saves his mother’s life. That is what the film is about, not about their heroic escape from the clutches of a psychopath.
A kid that came into being 2 years after his mother became a sex slave, and had been held captive for two years. He talks to the inanimate objects in the room (Good morning ‘lamp’, Good morning ‘sink’, Good morning ‘chair’), talks to his imaginary dog, does stretches with his mother to keep his muscles agile, listens to the ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ that his mother sings for him, makes toys with egg shells, and celebrates his birthday with a cake without candles, and stares out of the skylight where aliens live. That is what he’s been doing for 5 years until one fine day his mother decides that its about time he escaped. The instructions are clear – “Wiggle out, jump, run, somebody.”
He is scared shitless coz he literally has not seen anything out of that room and he is 5 years old! His world was a small room with a bed, wardrobe (where he was supposed to hide when ‘Old Nick” visited Mom, the name aptly refers to the devil as I read somewhere), a bathtub, a chair-table and a TV with bad reception. He literally is not aware that there exists a world outside these four walls full of trees and dogs and people and oceans and endless earth, which is round, he later gets to know confounded by the fact that if it is, why we don’t fall off. So when Mom tries to tell him the truth, he screams. (a scene he had the most difficulty performing)
She was all of 17 when this happened, she tells him, when she was tricked to fall down down down this rabbit hole. She tells him of Grandma’s house with a backyard and a hammock. He understands her story, coz he is five (Jacob was actually 7 at the time of the shoot) now. He is a grown up boy capable of understanding complex things, is what she makes him believe so that he can escape. And the moment he does, your heart, along with Mom’s, skip a beat. You literally want to run and save that kid from this monster driving the truck. Jack’s eyes, the moment he comes out of the carpet, are going to haunt me for a long long time.
Ideally, this is where a conventional film would have ended. The kid escapes, saves his mother with the help of the police, and they live happily ever after, but that is where this film actually starts, and post their escape it is an intense emotional rollercoaster ride that leaves you gasping for air by the time it ends.
“You’re gonna love it.” She tells him.
“What?” he asks.
“The World” she says.
But what she didn’t know that will she be able to love it?
“I am supposed to be happy.” says Joy (Brie Larson, I would not mind you taking that trophy home, at all.) to her mother at the beginning of a heated argument. She doesn’t know how to deal with her freedom. Everything has changed, from her own family to the world around her. People moved on, life went on. Living for 7 years in a contained space with a crushing hope that one day you might be able to look as far as your eyes can see instead of an impenetrable steel wall four feet away can leave you with severe PTSD. Plus she is worried about her child. She wants him to play with toys and connect with people, of which he is not capable of, not yet. Her mother and step father (Tom McCamus, a brief but wonderful cameo) are patient. They know he will come around, but Joy is impatient, and her interview with a news channels doesn’t really help things.
This film, in terms of narrative, explored an unchartered territory. We are used to seeing the victorious (or sometimes failed) escape of our heroes and that’s when the credits starts to roll. We are not used to seeing these people getting assimilated in the world again, and that’s where the magic lies. Showing us the struggle of Joy and Jake getting used to ‘space’ is where Emma Donoghue’s screenplay shines bright. For Jake, it’s easier coz he is still ‘plastic’ (read moldable) as per the doctor (“I am not plastic” he opposes in Ma’ ear) but Ma is not plastic, and she has to deal with not only her own loneliness but Jake’s as well.
The world is too much for Jake. He can’t handle this vast expanse of nothingness around him at such a tender age (“There’s so much of place in the world. There’s less time because the time has to be spread extra thin over all the places, like butter.”). He, at multiple times, asks if they can go back to the room coz he misses it sometimes. They do visit it one last time before saying their final goodbyes. “Say Bye to the room, Ma” tells Jake to Ma, and Brie Larson lets out an almost silent “Bye Room” under her breath. This time they don’t see the Room as the world they inhabited for 5 years but as a cell stripped off of everything that could have reminded them of their past. The flush, Jack’s ocean with boats and ships is gone, and so is the bed and mattress on which they used to sleep. The door is ajar, and the kitchen is ruined. This cathartic visit ends their ordeal coz Room literally doesn’t exist anymore.
The film leaves you emotionally drained with wet eyes and a runny nose but happy. Happy to have witnessed such an incredibly moving parable of an inexplicably strong bond between parent and child. This film rests at top with “Mad Max” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (another tear jerker) as my personal favorite from last year, and I don’t think any other film would be able to come close because I don’t think any other film will be able to have as much soul as these three.
Would like to leave you with this featurette that should tell you how amazing a chemistry these two share, even in real life
Go watch it for the kid, we don’t get to see such prodigies that often.