Film & Television

Movie Review: ‘Room’ — Four Walls and Boundless Love and Philosophy

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Brie Larson, who plays Ma, has been on my radar for some time. She was Toni Collette’s enterprising daughter in Showtime’s United States of Tara, and starred (and shone) in the little seen but excellent indie Short Term 12. Most recently, she was Amy Schumer’s more traditional sister in Trainwreck. Now, in Room, it’s great to see Larson flourish in such a challenging and mature role. The film festival buzz predicts an Oscar nomination for her and it will be well-deserved.

The supporting cast is equally strong. Sean Bridgers will make your skin crawl as Old Nick. William H. Macy, although not onscreen enough, is effective as Ma’s horrified father — he can’t and won’t look at Jack without imagining his daughter’s ordeal. Tom McCamus is amiable and low-key as Ma’s new (post-abduction) stepfather — his matter-of-fact approach and friendly dog Seamus help Jack heal. And, Joan Allen, an actress who has built a career being invariably wonderful, shows tremendous breadth, moving from exhilarated joy to parental frustration to the constancy and backbone Jack and Ma will need to move forward.

Other than the escape scenes and a brief stay at a local hospital, Room takes place in just two locations: the shed and Ma’s mother’s house. Yet, the wonder of the movie is that it never feels limited or claustrophobic. The imaginary world Ma creates while she and Jack live in Room is complimented by the sheer brilliance of the actual world. The script is so fine, the performances so fearless and the story so engrossing that the background becomes simply background. This is one of the richest stories of motherhood (and human-hood) we’ve seen at the movies in a long time. The closest thing I can think of is Life is Beautiful, another tale of parental self-sacrifice in the face of unimaginable evil.

If you ever studied philosophy, you may be familiar with Plato’s allegory of the cave. A group of men are chained inside a cave, in a position from which they can only see shadows on the wall. As far as they know, the shadows are reality and nothing else exists. When one is finally able to escape, he is blinded by the sun. In Room, Jack is temporarily blinded by the sun, by the thousands of other people, by cars and toys and dogs and everything else he only glimpsed through the shadowland of television. But, just as love sustained him in Room, it helps him embrace what lies ahead.

“You’re going to love it,” Ma promises him.


“The world.”


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