I read Emma Donoghue’s novel a few years ago, but I reckon I’d count it amongst my favourites of all time. Obviously, when the film came out I had to go and see how they compared.
The ‘Room’ in question here is a garden shed where five-year-old Jack has spent his entire life with his ‘Ma’, Joy. The two are isolated and imprisoned, but to Jack it’s just normal life. They do all the usual mother-son things; from Joy making sure Jack gets exercise and learns his ABCs to the pair baking a cake to celebrate Jack’s fifth birthday. Until one day, Joy reveals the severity of their situation, and they make a break for freedom.
Like the book, the film is narrated by the voice of Jack, but being able to see the events play out on screen from an observer’s perspective meant that for me the innocence and oblivion of Jack which was so strong in the book was lost to some extent. That having been said, I can see absolutely no way around this, and with such a strong, moving source material, the movie does bring to life Jack’s voice whilst giving the viewer more of the bigger picture. I have to say to that I was blown away by the performance of Jacob Tremblay (Jack). Child actors can be hit and miss – but this child, who arguably plays the protagonist in this story, played every scene completely on point. Within the setting of Room – a confined, claustrophobic environment – both Tremblay and Brie Larson (Joy) get a huge amount of screen time, and they capture the atmosphere well.
As the story moves on, the two plan their escape and, yet again, the translation from book to film falls down a little. There are parts which felt a little unbelievable, yet in the book narrated from a five-year-old’s point of view, I never questioned a thing.
With subject matter including abduction, imprisonment and an attempted suicide, you could be forgiven for thinking Room is a dark psychological thriller. It’s not. This is a touching story with a big heart, and I think the film has captured what is at the story’s core. It’s about relationships; about a mother and son whose love for each other carries them through any conditions, no matter how harsh. It’s beautiful, both in the film and in the book – although if I had to choose I’d still say that the book wins. But, with the writer’s own script to work with, Room the movie is a great reimagining of the original story.