Lenny Abrahamson's shattering drama Room borrows its fictional plot from the tabloids and strips it of sensationalism. Seven years ago, a man (Sean Bridgers) snatched seventeen-year-old Joy (Brie Larson) and stashed her in his backyard shed. Two years later, she bore their son. The door stayed locked.
Now five, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has never left their ten-by-ten cell. He's not even aware he's in one. To keep Jack calm, his mom convinces him that the world on TV is make-believe. All dogs are fake, the ocean is fake, the other people are just "made of colors." Their room -- or, as he calls it, "Room," the same way we say "America" -- is the only reality.
The twist is, to Jack it's not that bad. Like a goldfish in a bowl, or the explorer who's certain the world is flat, his curiosity fits his box. When Jack wakes up, he says hello to every item -- "good morning,
lamp," "good morning, plant."
Tremblay, an elf with an uncombed burst of hair, is so compelling that we can see Room through his eyes. But then Abrahamson pans over to Larson for a reality check. She keeps smiling — in a space this small, she has no privacy to sob. And then Jack looks away, and her face goes slack. Larson, a gifted actress with the solidity of a frontiersman, silently telegraphs her loss.
In frank terms, Room is a story about rape. Without it, Jack wouldn't exist. Yet Abrahamson loathes the salacious. He's fascinated by happiness and hope: how Jack can see joy in this dungeon, and how Joy can dream of freedom when her son can't comprehend that there's anywhere else to go.