Brie Larson is probably the most underrated actress working today. She’s a force of nature in every film she leads, and manages to outshine even in films that she co-stars in. “Room” is another in a line of original and unique films that Larson makes her own, delivering one of the most layered and heartbreaking performances of the year. “Room” is an unlikely thriller that surrounds the strong bonds of a mother and son, one that overcomes the horrendous circumstances in which the mother and son are ensconced in. Even young Jack, who is a child of violence, is the lone strand of sanity that keeps her from completely breaking down and giving up on life.
Larson is known simply as Ma, as we visit her and her son Jack in their own small space Jack brands as “Room.” They have a small living space with zero privacy, and Ma essentially uses this opportunity to bond with her son. This is a result of the circumstance where she’s essentially given up the luxury of privacy, discretion and the like simply for the purposes of allowing her son Jack to grow comfortably and without much fear of their current living situation. Every morning it’s the same routine, and Jack lives in a world built within the four walls of the small living space, and knows about the outside only through his color television, which is all but mythical to him. Many years ago, Ma was kidnapped and held hostage in a large shed and has all but given up on life. She’s accepted that she can’t escape her captor Jack has nicknamed “Old Nick,” considering he keeps the pair guarded in a sound proof construct, and locks them inside with a key pad and secret code.
Larson’s character is one who has all but given in to the idea of her life now beginning and ending in the shed, only capable of maintaining her hope by looking up at the small skylight in the shed. The fact she’s known mainly as Ma in the movie is a testament to the complete loss of her identity, and the fact she’s surrendered every notion of the idea of herself and individuality. She literally has no room to be herself and from the moment we meet her, she has to maintain a character for Jack’s sake, even battling through a rotten tooth. It’s entirely possible the search for her has ended, she’s been considered dead, and as Jack has grown in to a young boy, she realizes her entire world are the four walls, and whatever luxuries Old Nick allows the pair to have. “Room” is a wonderful amalgam of genres that prop it as a drama about the unbreakable bonds of mother and son while also functioning as a thriller filled with tension and terror. Abrahamson’s film could have easily fallen apart mid-way, but a lot of the narrative isn’t just based around living in a horrendous situation, but what happens when you have to re-adjust to life after a horrible crime.
There are so much immense overtones of guilt, regret, and spite from both ends of the spectrum that fill Ma’s journey to adjust to life, and Larson is only helped by truly incredible turns by William H. Macy, Tom McCamus, and Joan Allen, respectively. Hers is another gripping perspective of this crime as she’s somewhat also adjusted to her life and has to completely change it back when re-introduced to Ma, and her son Jack. Jacob Tremblay truly holds his own with a memorable turn as the maladjusted Jack who has to adapt to a world that’s much larger and much more ominous than anything he’d ever seen in the room. Jack’s journey is perhaps the most gut wrenching prompting so much emotions out of simple ideas he has to grasp, like walking up steps, and socializing with people outside of his own mother. “Room” is a juggernaut of a drama that never over simplifies or sensationalizes a situation that is filled with uncertainties even when love has conquered all.