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Joy and her Son Jack are kept in a small room by Joy’s kidnapper. Jack was born in this room, and Joy pretends that the room is the only thing that really exists in the world. But Jack is getting too old for this illusion.


Lenny Abrahamson’s psychological and philosophical thriller ROOM has a problem: its setup could lead people to suspect that it’s trashy. That’s definitely not the case. The setup of the story is this:
Joy was kidnapped by a man when she was 17 and has been trapped in a room and sexually abused ever since. She gave birth to a son, Jack, who is now five years old in this room. Joy hides the circumstances of their imprisonment from Jack and pretends that the room, which later turns out to be a tool shed, is the entire world. The only things that are real are in this room and the kidnapper, who she calls “old Nick,” who Jack has never met because Jack has to hide in a closet as soon as old Nick enters. Jack is the narrator of the film and we experience his world, the room, from his perspective. Everything is animated in this world and does not have labels but rather names: the room is called “room,” the sink is called “sink,” the closet is “closet.” Jack greets these things as if they were living creatures every morning. Each creature has a characteristic: “closet” is the tallest, “bed” is the broadest, “egg eater” is the longest. There’s a TV but the figures inside it aren’t real because they are flat. Joy has constructed this tiny world in which Jack is growing up in a complex and lively way because Jack shouldn’t feel like he's lacking in anything. The fact that the situation isn’t sustainable becomes very clear once Jack says he is not five and knows much more than when he was four.
ROOM is initially a tense thriller that revolves around the question of how to get out of a situation which is seemingly impossible to get out of. ROOM is primarily a story about broadening awareness, rebirth, the shock that the world represents – and about the process of healing and awakening. Emma Donaghue’s ROOM was rightfully nominated for an Oscar for best adapted screenplay – adapted from her own novel in this case which won the Irish book prize. Director Lenny Abrahamson last shot the great pop drama FRANK about an indie band whose leader always stayed hidden inside a huge paper mache mask and who never wanted to stop rehearsing in a cabin in the woods. The filmmaker has been tackling unusual perspectives on the world for a while now.
The most outstanding thing about the film is the acting of young Jacob Tremblay, who has already starred in seven films after ROOM and acts so well that you forget just how complex his task is and how difficult and risky it is to cast children in key roles. There are many good child directors: Horokazu Kore-eda lets children be children and writes the scenes that make their childish behavior come off as natural as possible. He gets fantastic results but what Jacob Tremblay achieves in this role has a different quality. Lenny Abrahamson said in an interview with The Guardian that children have the unbelievable ability to be optimistic and shut out the dark side of the world which they sense but can’t categorize yet. When Jacob is asked what the film is about in interviews he says: “my mom and I are in this room and a bad man is keeping us captive.” A fairy tale which isn’t worse than Hansel and Gretel. The philosophical implications of the story go further: from Plato’s Cave Allegory to questions about processing trauma and political questions of perception and the borders of insight. “Room isn’t small. Room is from here to the other end and back again,” says Jack. Whose world would be bigger?

Tom Dorow

Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Room
Kanada/Irland 2015, 118 min
Language: English
Genre: Drama
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Author: Emma Donoghue
DOP: Danny Cohen
Montage: Nathan Nugent
Music: Stephen Rennicks
Distributor: Universal Pictures Germany
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen
FSK: 12
Release: 17.03.2016




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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