02 March 2016


It's not often that the scant interior space of a locked-up backyard storage shed is a character in a film but Room is a character in "Room" from beginning to end. "Room" (the film) is a low-budget, superbly-acted movie that received a nomination for Best Picture. Brie Larson ("Ma"), starring as a survivor of a seven-year abduction during which she was repeatedly raped, became pregnant, and raised her son Jack for five years until engineering an escape with his help, received the Oscar for Best Actress.

Through the horrors of captivity, the joy of release, and the challenges of freedom, "Room" reveals at least three important insights. First, physical space--whether a small room or an entire world--informs our tacit understanding of ourselves and our relationships. We see this most clearly in the character of Jack whose life-long exposure to the world outside Room was limited to what he could see through a small skylight and a TV with bad reception. In fact, until he made his escape, Jack refused to believe his mother's claims that there was an outside world. Jack's discovery of what until then he could not even imagine is illuminating. On the one hand, we who have always lived in "the world" routinely fail to appreciate its wonder and beauty. On the other hand, the world is our Room such that we cannot imagine what glories lie beyond it.

Second, "Room" masterfully relates the struggles we experience when our expectations differ greatly from reality. Ma's post-release life took a course far different than Jack's. Unlike Jack who experienced what he could not have imagined, his mother's imagined world of freedom was far different from what she actually experienced. During her seven years of captivity her parents divorced, her father moved away, and her mother remarried to a family friend. Struggling to adapt to a world in which "nothing" had happened to her high school friends and in which she was confronted with the harsh question of whether she could have done something to free Jack sooner, Larson's character attempts suicide.

Third, we see the love of a mother and child that transcends the limits of space and the challenges of life. From the moments of joy Ma created in Room to Jack's selfless sacrifice of his five-year growth of hair (his "strength") to encourage his mother's post-suicide-attempt rehabilitation, "Room" touchingly uncovers the power of love. Nowhere was this more perfectly revealed than in the dialog between Jack and Larson's character after her return from rehab. Ma weepingly tells Jack that she regrets not being a better mother to which Jack lovingly replies, "But you're Ma!"

A wonderful film that we highly recommend.

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