Room (2015)

(On Cable TV, July 2016) One of the most curious facets of a developing movie critic’s mind is the ability to recognize competence and detach it from enjoyment. For various reasons, I find Room’s subject matter almost unbearable and I do not ever want to watch it ever again. It is, after all, the story of a young boy, result of years of abuse between a sexual psychopath and his captive subject—his world at the beginning of the film is solely limited to the room in which he and his mom are held captive. This is the kind of thing nightmares are made of, and if Room hadn’t come to cable TV channels with its “Oscar winning” distinction (and assorted armful of critical attention), there is no way I would have watched it. But it has won a boatload of awards, and watching the film underscores why: For one thing, it takes a terrible story and filters it through the innocent perspective of a young boy, making it less aggressive but more disturbing in its implications. The protagonist of the story arguably isn’t the viewpoint character (much of the third act is about the mom, even in absentia), and the antagonist disappears surprisingly quickly from the film. The script, interestingly enough, is written by Emma Donoghue, the author of the novel on which it is based. Room benefits greatly from a handful of good performances, the best of which (with apologies to the Oscar-winning Brie Larson) has to be Jacob Tremblay’s performance in the lead role. It’s also fiendishly clever in its cinematography, in showing the Room as its own expansive universe, and then revisiting it later to show its true oppressive confinement. But it’s also a story in which people get better, overcome terrible adversity and manage to move forward. For a small movie shot in suburban Toronto, it packs quite an emotional punch, even if it’s one that few will strictly enjoy. So there we go: A few reasons why Room is worth seeing at least once … even though you, too, may never want to see it again.

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