(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to incorporate kennings, or colorful indirect descriptions of something, like calling the sea a “whale road.” That something, in this case, was the main setting of one of last year’s best films.)
Surrounding me always, you indigent cube,
You keep me from life as I knew.
I’ve watered your walls with my unheeded tears,
Yet nothing but misery grew.
The walls have no ears, but no lack of blind eyes,
Blank slates too hard-hearted to shatter.
They’re vertical wastelands combined to confine
And convince me we no longer matter.
Yet you, my dear son, see a whole different Room,
A pocket of space minus time,
Where you are not bound but contently surrounded
By vertical playgrounds to climb.
I yearn to be free from these monolith graves,
For if you see joy in their gray,
I wait for the day that your rose-colored eye
May witness the world kept at bay.
MPAA rating: R (for language and the very situation)
A small but widely admired film, Room is an emotionally compressed powerhouse. Much of the film is set in a Room, a small shed where Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) has been held for seven years as little more than a sex slave. The one bright spot of her captive life is her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who was born in Room and knows nothing of the outside world. When Jack turns five, Joy recruits him in a risky escape attempt.
In light of horrific news stories like the Ariel Castro kidnappings in Cleveland, the setup is both unthinkable and sadly believable. What Joy endures is disturbing on multiple levels, but I appreciated the filmmakers’ restraint. Some Oscar contenders don’t hold back on the objectionable content, but the rapes and nudity are out of view of both the audience and Jack, whose mother protects him with a passion. We see most events through Jack’s innocent, naïve perspective, and Tremblay does a marvelous job playing a credible five-year-old, with all the devotion, defiance, and curiosity that age entails. From the beginning, we see how Joy has endeavored to make Room a fun semblance of home for Jack, even as he remains oblivious to what he is missing and just how depressed she is.
I don’t want to include any spoilers, but Room seems to evoke different emotions in different people. Many reviewers have noted how there’s an exciting sense of wonder as Jack experiences new things and the unavoidable sensory overload. My VC, who liked the film less than I, came away depressed and somber. I was left with a sense of gratitude. The line that jumped out at me was when Joy tells Jack of her childhood friends, and when asked what happened to them, she bitterly replies that they merely lived their lives with nothing happening. How easy it is for us to take the very normalcy of our lives for granted! There are people enslaved to this day, whether in physical or sexual bondage, and next to them, my problems seem small. Seeing all the things of which Jack and Joy were deprived only made me more thankful that I had a stocked fridge and available health care and an open door.
While Tremblay is excellent, Brie Larson undoubtedly deserved her Best Actress Oscar. Her gazes of weariness are deeply felt, and her bond with and dependence on Jack is definite and heart-tugging. Though the acting is beyond reproach, the pacing does lag at times trying to emphasize the tedium of being trapped, and there are really no explanations until a half hour in. Thus, patience is required but rewarded. Room ends in a perfect echo of its beginning, and hope mixes beautifully with grief.
Best line: (Jack, in true five-year-old fashion) “When I was small, I only knew small things. But now I’m five, I know everything!”
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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