A Room within a Room

The intensely charged film Room was the Winner of the Audience Choice Award for

Best Canadian Feature at this year’s Available Light Film Festival. If you missed it in February, The Yukon Film Society is bringing it back to the screen March 20th.

Adapted from Ireland-born writer Emma Donoghue’s Booker Prize nominated novel of the same name, Room is about a woman who is kidnapped and held against her will and gives birth to a son during her captivity. Director Lenny Abrahamson brings all the emotional devastation and terrifying angst of being held prisoner in a small room for seven years that one could possibly muster.  Ma, played by Brie Larson who received this year’s Academy Award for Best Actress, keeps the imagination of her five year son Jack (Canadian Jacob Tremblay) alive through make-believe and their only connection to the outside world, television. The astonishing reality of the real world is forced upon Jack as his mother plots a daring escape.

In Cinema Scope, critic Angelo Muredda  explains that Room  is “a lightly conceptual, sturdily acted piece of redemptive cinema that peers into the abyss only to blithely deny it.” In other words, Room’s immense success as an overall audience experience can be attributed to the endurance of hope that both lead actors embody so convincingly well.  The universal concept of a mother’s love for her child and what one’s resilience will achieve is acted and filmed remarkably well and thus commands much emotional and bodily involvement from the viewer.

Being present for the screening Tuesday February 9th during ALFF there were moments where one could hear spectators breathe, sigh and even blink. The suspenseful tempo and build of the film is greatly indebted to the relationship Ma and Jack impose on the audience; through their connection we experience immense joy, sadness, excitement, pain and empathy. If not just as helpful to the film’s authentic experience is the photography and screen writing and itself.  Abrahamson went to great lengths to create the claustrophobic and isolated setting of ‘Room.’ The room itself was a Tetris-like set; walls could be removed in order to accommodate camera angles without compromising the overall containment of the setting. For most of the first act of the film the room’s location is unknown, whether it is a basement, part of larger building, its location, both Ma and the audience are kept in suspension.  

Room’s spectatorship can be described as having the vague feeling of bodily discomfort and overall excitement as such a films as Kubrick’s The Shining and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. Films such as these compel the audience to react viscerally.  Such films are meant to be seen on the big screen, it is a pure cinema experience that is only multiplied by the realization that one could hear a pin drop in a room of 375 people.

Room screens at 7:45pm along with Unbranded (5:30pm) and The Secret of Kells (3:30pm) March 20th at The Yukon Arts Centre.

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