ROOM directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Canada/Ireland/UK, 2015)


Joy and Jack look for light in the darkness.

Room is the story of survival. The main victim is Joy Newcombe ( which evokes the idea that he is the devil in human form. While in captivity he has fathered Joy’s 5-year-old son Jack and you imagine that sexual abuse is the prime motive for his actions.

There is always a morbid curiosity to uncover the dark secrets that drive this kind of depraved behavior. A weakness of the movie is that we learn so little about this man’s background or what happens to him after being apprehended. We hear of, but never really see any physical abuse and only the sound of a creaking bed tells us that he is repeatedly raping her.

The absence of explicit sex or violence can be justified, however, since this is a psychological drama rather than a crime story. The focus is primarily on the mother-child relationship and how they eventually overcome the traumatic, inhuman circumstances they find themselves in.

Joy and Jack are imprisoned like animals in a converted garden shed with the only natural light being from a skylight. Food and provisions are delivered and they have to improvise a routine in order to stay clean, healthy and sane.

With long hair and delicate features, Jack is a feral child who looks more like a girl. The actor Jacob Tremblay, aged 9, is a remarkable discovery and from his extraordinary performance you get a sense of how he copes by creating a fantasy world.

The book (which I haven’t read) the story is told from this child’s perspective, a narrative device that you can pull off on the page but is practically impossible on screen. A voiceover of Jack’s impressions is the cinematic means of getting inside his head. Almost inevitably, these sometimes err on the mawkish side but, fortunately, director Lenny Abrahamson has a keen sense of the need to balance sentimentalism with some harsher realities.

Irish-Canadian Emma Donoghue, wrote the screenplay based on her novel and, on the whole, is successful in helping to forge a feel-good movie out of what could otherwise have been another tale of man’s inhumanity to womankind.

This is a movie that can’t really be faulted on a any technical level and the acting is consistently excellent. Despite this, I wasn’t as emotionally sucked in as I expected to be. This probably says more about me than the film.

News stories of equivalent real-life  dramas are so bleak and depressing that I found it hard to shake the thought that I was being skillfully manipulated so as to see so much light within the darkness.