Okay, technically this did get a late 2015 release. However, here in the United Kingdom it was a January film so that’s good enough for me to view it as a movie from 2016. Coupled with its inclusion in this year’s Academy Awards, it has a valid enough reason to be as classed a movie from the last twelve months. But why the best?
After a whole year, to drag a film back from the previous December speaks volumes for its impact. It should be a story that is too grim to place the spotlight on. Even if executed well, it should have been put on a shelf and been everyone’s sad but buried movie. Well, it wasn’t shot, written and performed well – it was almost perfect.
Emma Donoghue took her 2010 novel and turned it into a screenplay before the book’s actual release. It’s a great example of allowing the author to nurture their work to the big screen. The result is clear to see. Profound, in fact. Who else could have added the required layers to the characters from the page?
This may sound strange, the idea of an adaptation adding to the written word, but leading star and Oscar winner for her performance in the film, Brie Larson, explained in an interview it was after seeing the script, and realising her character’s role had greater depth than the Joy portrayed in the book, that she had no doubts about joining the project.
She worked under director Lenny Abrahamson to tell the story of a young woman who had been abducted years before and kept hidden in a small outhouse. It forms the “room” for the first part of the story. Trapped with her is Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay, her five-year-old son, a product of the repeated rapes by her captor.
Jack has never seen beyond the room. His perceptions of the world are from Joy’s teachings, she has told Jack the world is just their space. Everything on the television is make believe. The world has shrunk to the size of that room, to just one another. It’s part coping mechanism, part defensive measure.
Joy ensures Jack is kept locked in the cupboard during the nightly visits from “Old Nick” (their jailor). The author confirmed the naming is a nod to the old Christian term for the devil; Joy and Jack are unaware of his actual name.
After an impromptu meet between “Old Nick” and Jack, Joy decides she needs to get her son out of the room and reveals that a wider world does exist. What follows is nerve-wracking and heart-breaking. It shows the best and worst of humanity in close proximity and quick succession.
It’s no spoiler to say the movie moves on beyond the room, where mother and son have to adapt to a new world.
Larson has already been awarded for her role but she should cut that Oscar in half and send it to Jacob Tremblay. Watching him become familiar with the world while expressing the bond with his mother is something magical.
Before shooting, Lenny Abrahamson got the two actors together on social dates to see if there was a connection that could be caught on camera. He must have felt like he’d hit the jackpot. Tremblay said in an interview he was so friendly with Brie in real life he found he couldn’t shout at her in one scene. That true friendship is the backbone for what comes across as an unbreakable bond.
The world Joy and Jack find themselves in after the room has more traps than before and is a struggle for the pair. The pieces of a broken family, confused relatives, a relentless media, to name a few. But a film that spends so long pulling on heart-strings before breaking them, is also inspiring. The expression of true love overcoming all evil.
From the darkest nature of man, two people of pure goodness emerge.
Usually it’s best to read the novel first then view the film with a critical eye, adding the obvious line: the book’s always better. In this case a complete reversal works: after watching the movie, it’s unfathomable that the written word can prove to be more emotive.
It’s understandable people will draw parallels or conclusions to real-world stories that have similar points but these are always portrayed as horrors in the media. This story shows us the central points between the two victims involved and despite all that they endure, a real feeling of hope becomes the fabric of their tale.
Sometimes, the only thing that a person needs in an entire world is just one person to love them. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay have expressed this better than anyone has previously managed on film.