The story is told through the eyes of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a child who has spent the entirety of his scant five year life span living in the confines of a room no bigger than a garden shed. Jack lives with his mother (Brie Larson) who was abducted years before by a mysterious stranger known only as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), caged in security-locked room and repeatedly abused. Despite this rather dark conceit, when we meet Jack and his Mum things are relatively domesticated. Well, as domesticated as day-to-day life can get when trapped in a garden shed.
Old Nick regularly arrives with supplies (and abuse) and they have access to all the basic amenities which Jack takes pleasure in greeting each day as he wakes. “Hello sink. Hello plant. Hello TV...” - Jack’s view on his limited existence is muddled and plagued with youthful innocence. People on television live on different worlds. Outside of ‘Room’ is nothing but outer space. Jack’s Mum tries her best to explain this most difficult of situations to her child, humouring him in his youth but fully aware that soon he must learn the truth. In between daily education and exercise (Jack sprints from wall to wall, all four feet of it), the thought of escape is constant and when an opportunity presents itself, Jack and his Mum must work together to regain their freedom.
Brie Larson undoubtedly has a difficult role on her hands in Room and turns in a starkly down-to-Earth performance of what life in captivity would actually be like after seven long years. However, thinking about the job Tremblay has on his hands is truly staggering. Inviting an actor of any background to inhibit the role of someone with absolutely no reference points to the modern world is a tall order. To ask that of a five year old? Near impossible. Yet, Tremblay pulls it off with aplomb. At times he’s a spoilt brat, complacent with his shoe-box world. Other times he’s a bemused blank slate with a truly unique view on everything he sees. You can guarantee that you’ll see more of him in the future and if he can weather that tricky child actor roller coaster, his future is surely bright.
Abrahamson tells his story in two parts, spending little time on the wider consequences and instead focusing on the real-life impact this would have on its lead characters and their family. The result is something hugely compelling. Maybe it’s because, rather terrifyingly, instances like this do happen in real life, yet beyond the salacious headlines we rarely see the long-term consequences. In a roundabout way, Room is a look at relationships in the midst of chaos and there’s something appealing about that that effortlessly overshadows its shocking storyline.