Child acting in film is a different beast compared to its adult counterpart. Both instances already require direction and, in some cases, a lot of patience. The impressionable minds of child actors sometimes become an extra layer that interferes with the creative process. So to have a eight year old star in the dramatic thriller RoomI knew I was in for a ride. With a particularly heavy and emotional subject matter, would Roomsucceed or would the leading child become a distraction?
Room tells the story of a Joy, a woman who was kidnapped as a teenager and has been held captive in a room. The movie opens up on the eve of her son’s fifth birthday. The premise of the movie explores the idea of raising a child from birth in the confides of a 10×10 room. Room excels at setting up this plot “what if?” and executes it well with attention to the smallest of details.
Co-starring Brie Larson as Joy/”Ma” is Jack, played by Jacob Trembly who was only eight at the time of filming. Roomis directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Brie Larson won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in 2016 in addition to Room receiving a nomination for Best Picture of the Year that same year. Roommay have flown past many viewers due to it not receiving a wide release in theaters but it is available at the time of writing this on streaming services.
The first half of the movie is spent building and explaining the world through Jack. This is expertly done through Jack’s dialog. Rather than common words of reference he switches to pronouns like Chair, Desk, TV, Table, and Wardrobe to reference things in the room.
The switch to pronouns shows the kind of relationships he develops living in that isolated world. He grows a deep bond to the inanimate things around him, almost becoming a member to the family. At first you don’t realize this subtle technique in word choice in the beginning. But once you hear Jack constantly refer to things with pronouns you begin to realize just how far Jack is disconnected from the word outside the room.
A very dramatic and powerful moment comes when Joy decides that they need to escape the room once and for all. Joy attempts to explain to Jack that she was stolen and locked in a room by a man. Confused and scared, Jack does not believe her and goes as far as to defend Room.This scene crafts the sense of hopelessness by showing Joy’s frustration with her young son and Jack’s uncanniness to not believe his mother about the true nature of the world.
We all have struggled before to explain some aspect of the world to a younger brother, sister, child or cousin. It is this relatability Roominvests in that makes the drama that much more effective and believable.
In the second half, the movie does an interesting pivot from an escape thriller to a dramatic “return to home”. Nonetheless, Roomcontinues its dedication to realism and relatability up till the end. In the final acts Joy struggles with finding a sense of normalcy at home.
Anxieties from media storms, an unaccepting grandfather and little day-to-day activities become too much for her to handle. Sooner than later Jack asks questions about the fate of Room; and then we see Joy herself become distracted with a lingering thought of the room. I think this is another stroke of genius for Room when telling its story.
Despite being their subject of torment and abuse, Room is almost painted as comforting in comparison to their newfound stress. In Room there was no other person to hurt little Jack and in Room there were no mind-numbing electronics. The room was a living hell, but Joy had much more control than she did on the outside. Having Joy almost miss the confides of the room reveals the deep fear she has in losing control over her son.
What I praise most about Room is the teams tireless work in building and investing in both Jack and Joy’s world. Purposeful dialog and relatable emotions allow Room to tell its dramatic and unique story. A story about a mother and her undying love for her son.