The winner of many awards both in the US and abroad, many of which singled out Brie Larson’s measured performance as Joy Newsome (or ‘Ma’ as she is called for the majority of the film), Room was adapted from Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same same. She also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation, directed by Lenny Abrahamson. This Friday, Donoghue will be giving viewers the pleasure of introducing the film before it screens at the Brattle Theatre.
Room’s rapid rise to critical acclaim was rather unprecedented, stemming from its win at the Toronto International Film Festival a year ago, almost exactly to the day. Donoghue has spoken about her fear that, imagining how her book might take to the screen, it would turn into something less sensitive and refined in tone, something more “soppy” or, on the other hand, “voyeuristic,” as Cara Buckley reported in the New York Times last year. The result couldn’t have been farther from those qualities. Even at its emotional peaks, Room does not come off as soppy, though it is, of course, gut-wrenching; nor does its intimate look into the life of a captive mother and child – the latter of whom was born into that very captivity and knows nothing else – take an indulgent point of view in their harrowing reality (though it does look very closely). How Abrahamson manages to refrain from crossing these fine lines – lines that serve as a boundary between invasive and aloof both in terms of tone and how the camera is positioned – is a remarkable feat.
Some of Room’s biggest conflicts, when the tension reaches its breaking point, concern Ma’s struggle to adjust to a world from which she was taken many years ago as a mere teenager. But our vantage point, throughout all of this, from Ma’s highs to her lows, is her son Jack. His heightened perception of their close quarters is “visceral and pleasurable” according to Manohla Dargis, framing our understanding of Ma’s reality in a very unique way that, to my knowledge, is a rare device to see in such a film. In some scenes we are literally looking up at her, waiting for an explanation or reaction, or perhaps we are just watching and learning. She is, after all, Jack’s only reliable connection to understanding the complexities of human behavior. And those many complexities reveal sides of both Ma and Jack that pave the way for an uncertain, but hopeful, future.
dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Screens Friday, 9/23 @Brattle Theatre
Introduced by Emma Donoghue
Doors at 5:30 / Reading at 6:00 / Film at 8:15