Room is a movie with good intentions but it establishes nothing to get us to fully connect with anything that’s given to us on the screen. Having heard a mix of thoughts regarding this one it only sparked my interest more but by the time I came out it, I just felt absolutely nothing. It’s really sad because from the positive things I heard at TIFF which sparked my interest, I’d have my hopes up. And as much as I really wanted to like it, Room turned out to be one of the most disappointing films that I have seen all year. What could have been a fascinating tale of a different sort of parenthood ends up a highly manipulative piece of drivel and ultimately, a big waste of potential when we consider how it could have been explored with Lenny Abrahamson behind the camera. A true letdown indeed.
The biggest problem that Room suffers is that throughout its near two-hour long running time, there is nothing much established and as I waited for a moment to learn more about the conflict, instead I just picked up something so thin and empty. There was never any real moment in which I felt much sympathy for the characters as they all seemed more like cardboard cutouts on the screen. You can get an idea from one half of Room that Lenny Abrahamson wants to show a mother raising her child in a unique manner but his direction feels so overbearing and it takes away whatever impact it should have contained, but then add the blaringly distracting music score (which I will get right down to in due time) and it becomes easy to find cues for emotional manipulation.
Given the lack of establishment being one of my biggest problems with the film, it’s also one thing that you can note it also feels nothing really happens as the movie keeps going on. You’re looking at one scene, and then you head over to another, but they still remain on the exact same point. It only made the experience all the more painstaking and just absolutely dull. My only assumption was that it turns out to be the fault of an awful screenplay, and while I’ve no doubt that the novel (which shares the same writer) is much better, I’m unconvinced that Emma Donaghue should continue writing screenplays considering how blatantly overwritten Room makes itself out to be.
As if it couldn’t possibly get worse from there, there’s an aggravating tone that can be picked up from two aspects. One of which is the score, which feels like it’s only placed as a means of setting a mood. When I’m listening to the score, I just feel as if the movie is practically trying to tell its viewers how they should be feeling to a point it becomes manipulative, which ended up getting to my own annoyance. When I want to hear a music score whose goal is to set the emotional tones for a film, I don’t wish for it to distract from the overall story the manner it affected Room. You can think of the opening scene to Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, a scene which uses the score in order to set a specific mood for what is to follow. In Room‘s scenario, it feels as if the score is kicking the viewer across the face just as a means of forcing them to cry.
Jacob Tremblay’s performance was another thing that did get on my nerves. We get the fact he’s an annoying little five-year-old who has spent his entire lifetime in a room, but as I’ve noted about emptiness, he is a shallow character and there’s nothing much given to his personality. He’s aggravating for the most part, but eventually there’s a moment, where you see some actual development is given to him and suddenly he’s interesting. It’s unfortunately a moment that’s spoiled in the trailer, an area where the marketing team is to blame. It’s only that one moment where he’s suddenly fascinating, and I have to give it credit for that, but soon he returns to the state of being irritating. I really don’t wish to be so critical of a child performance given his young age but the experience I had watching Room made me wish I would never want to be around someone with such a limited perspective about the whole world around him since he was so confined. Keep in mind, I don’t blame Tremblay at all, what I blame is just merely how poorly written his character is.
Brie Larson, however, is most certainly the best part. For one, her performance is the film’s only standout. It’s not at all anything compared to her role in Short Term 12, but at the very least she is the only character in Room that ever felt real to a viewer like myself. It’s easy to say that she might end up being a major contender for Best Actress, especially with how devoted she is into bringing life into this part. Yet given the emotional resonance which she attempts to create (like I can always expect from such a talented actress), it feels like she is shrouded with the overwriting on her own part and even such a fantastic performance fails to resonate with myself.
The very idea of Room is something that could have been made fascinating but it really deserved much better execution than what we were given here. When it works effectively, especially from Brie Larson, it’s interesting to watch. The only reasoning I can see behind why Lenny Abrahamson would attach his own name to Room is so that he can drive Oscar attention by asking his audiences to cry as opposed to working his way in order to earn the tears. It’s such a shame because when we consider his own unconventional approaches to storytelling, Room could have benefited so much. Instead, Room chose the simple route and it sunk down to convention and thus it fails to leave any sort of mark.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via A24.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Screenplay by Emma Donaghue, from her novel
Produced by Ed Guiney, David Gross
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy
Release Year: 2015
Running Time: 118 minutes