Monday, November 21, 2016

Girl Week 2016: Room


Girl Week 2016 is finally here! We're going to get things started by focusing on a young lady who shows both strength and weakness.

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
2015. Rated R, 118 minutes.
Cast:
Brie Larson
Jacob Tremblay
Joan Allen
William H. Macy
Sean Bridgers
Amanda Brugel
Tom McCamus
Wendy Crewson

A young woman lives in a shabby, cluttered, and very tiny apartment she calls "Room" with her son, Jack (Tremblay). To him, and us, she is only known as Ma (Larson), initially. Shortly, it becomes apparent this isn't really an apartment. Instead, it's an old shed that's been transformed. Furthermore, Jack was born there and has never been outside of it, not even for one second. Ma hasn't seen the outside since two years before Jack was born. That's because their only visitor, Old Nick (Bridgers) is the man who abducted Ma all those years ago and has been keeping her captive ever since. Ma has finally had enough. We watch as she plots her and Jack's escape.

The trick Room manages to pull off is taking two movies and making them one without really trying to integrate the telling of one story into another. The two films are the one of Ma and Jack trying to escape and the one about them after they do. That may seem like a spoiler, but I don't think it is because when it happens, it's merely the beginning of the rest of their lives, not the end of our story. What goes on in Room is incredibly tense, and gut-wrenching. For every moment of it we are on edge, knowing any misstep made could prove fatal to Ma and/or her son. When the film moves away from Room, the real work begins. Jack has to integrate himself into "normal" society while Ma has to put the pieces of her life back together. This is just as worrisome, but in a different way than the early parts of the film. Indeed, the sense of relief one feels after our heroes are free of Old Nick's clutches makes the initial moments following this seem like a lull. In reality, it's where we restart the meter and begin cranking up the tension, once more. We don't worry about Old Nick popping back up to get them, but about the damage he caused Jack, and particularly Ma.


Brie Larson's performance is key to making this work, as well as it does. It's the best performance to date by a young woman who has already done stellar work. What she accomplishes as Ma is nothing short of amazing. She makes her pain become our pain. Her fears are ours, as well. Her frustrations are the same. We ache when she aches and never question whether we should, or not. We just instinctively want to cocoon her with our hugs to protect her from the world. Unfortunately, we realize all of her healing must come from within. Larson does an outstanding job of externalizing all the pain her character has internalized. She does it without seeming like a stark raving maniac, as many actresses would. She is clearly a wounded creature. We're watching her contemplate whether she wants to continue fighting. She has to figure out how much fight she even has left in her. Ma's own mother Nancy is in the same predicament as we are. Joan Allen gives a typically excellent performance of her own in the role. As the person most reaching out to Ma, she is our conduit. In fact, we are Nancy. We want to help so bad, but are helpless to do so.

The hardest part of watching this is how it fractures Ma's relationship with her son. Young Jacob Tremblay has received plenty of praise for his portrayal of the sheltered Jack, and deservedly so. He does exactly what he's called on to do. He makes Jack believable, lovable, and an empathetic figure. The character's naivete is astounding, but understandable given the circumstances of his life. Here is a boy who truly believed everything outside of the place he lived only existed on television. That there are people other than Old Nick beyond the walls of Room is a fact lost on him until he encounters some. I won't say it was one of the best performances of the year, as some have, but I will say he did an excellent job capturing the spirit of such a child.

Director Lenny Abrahamson deserves a ton of credit for showing restraint as a storyteller. In movies dealing with similar subject matter, the norm is to weave the two parts of the tale together through the use of flashbacks. The other way to go is focusing solely on the lead up to the escape and ending the movie with that as its climax. Going in either direction would be acceptable and may have yielded a perfectly fine movie. Splitting the film in half, the way he does, is risky, but it pays off. Along with his leading lady, he forces us to empty our emotions early, only to build them up and empty them again. By the end, we're spent, yet cautiously optimistic about what the future holds for Ma and Jack.



After tomorrow's post I will share links to any of your post that has graced the internet. In the meantime,..


25 comments:

  1. This is definitely one of my favorite films of 2015 as I just love everything about it. Most of all, it's sense of patience during the second half in how to approach Jack's encounter with this world he is now in. One scene that I really liked is how Joan Allen's boyfriend was announcing that he was going to get some cereal and asked if anyone wanted to join him. It could've been played for laughs or anything but it was that simple approach and patience that made the scene worked. It's those little moments that makes a film so special.

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    1. Those little things do make this a special movie. And Abrahamson is wonderfully patient which serves his film extremely well. M

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  2. Good overview of a film that I appreciated more than loved. It's so heavy and oppressive that I was glad to see it end but it is loaded with exemplary work. Brie Larson was terrific, although I thought Charlotte Rampling was more deserving of the Oscar for her staggering work in 45 Years, but the standout performance for me was the young boy's. I'm glad I watched it but it was a one and done for me.

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    1. Admittedly, it is tough viewing, but I found it very rewarding by the time it ended. Haven't seen 45 Years just yet. Might get to it this week, but probably not.

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  3. What a way to start the week off Dell! Room is such an amazing movie, and I can't imagine anyone who could do a better job of playing Ma than Brie Larson. Her performance made me heart ache the entire time.
    - Allie

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    1. Didn't she, though? Just astonishing work by her.

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  4. Hey mate, great post. Can we still submit entries??

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    1. Thanks! Of course, you can! Just post anytime this week and leave a link for me.

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  5. Yes!! I really dug this one, and I'm so glad to see this as one of your entries this week. Brie Larson is everything here and quickly rising as one of our best actresses. I really hope this big budget stuff she's getting into doesn't take here away from small, more meaningful roles like this.

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    1. Larson is spectacular. I've loved her in everything I've seen her in. I share your sentiment about the direction of her career.

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    1. I had a few tears as well. A powerful film.

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  7. This was one of my faves from last year, and glad Brie Larson won. It's a dark subject matter but the film wasn't overly bleak.

    Btw, I just reviewed LOVING recently, hope you check it out Dell, it's such a beautifully-crafted film.

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    1. The trailer for Loving looks excellent. I do hope to see it soon.

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  8. This is easily one of the best films of 2015 and one of my favs as well. It is so heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, and Brie Larson was phenomenal. Her performance, oh my god, it was so good, she added so much emotional depth to the character it's impossible not to care about her and be moved. I can't really imagine someone else playing Ma.

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  9. This is just such incredibly moving film, made me cry on multiple occasions. One of favourite films of last year. Brie Larson was superb and he relationship with her son was, as you said, fractured because of the circumstances but it felt so real because of that.

    I watched a film recently that fits the theme, but I didn't write it even this in mind. Hopefully it's ok if I include it away? That said, it's a dark pick, but looks at important female themes.

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    1. Larson was so so real. Sorry I'm late getting back to you, but I'm cool with including your post.

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  10. I still have to see this film. It is such a heavy, gut wrenching film that you know women had to actually deal with, that i haven't had the courage to see it yet

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    1. Hope you muster up that courage because it's an excellent film and Larson is outstanding.

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  11. Interesting review - makes me want to see Room more and more. Had it waiting on Prime for a while now, waiting for the right time. Larson impressed in Short Term 12 and she has that unterstated gravitas to play these part which I like. Looking forward to seeing it.

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    1. She really blew me away, here. Her Oscar win was well deserved.

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  12. I loved this movie, and I loved the book even more, partly because I experienced the story through the book first. It was one of the few times I wanted to stay up all night and read a book cover to cover in one sitting.

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  13. I completely agree with your thoughts on the film. I loved how the trailers also managed to conceal the dual identities of the film. I honestly thought the movie was going to end after they leave Room but that's when the true film starts for me. Been exposed to a few psychology classes recently and I think the film perfectly portrayed the difficulty that would come from Jake's transition into the 'real' world. Don't know if you noticed it but Lenny Abrahamson also deserves great praise for his use of camera angles to force perspective. In the beginning of the film Room feels vast but at the end it feels tiny, minute even. I think that reflected how Jake saw things and that was a great piece of storytelling.

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