Room showcases the best and worst of humanity in a compelling story adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own novel. Brie Larson, in an Oscar-worthy performance, is Ma, a young woman abducted when she was 17 and kept in a 10 x 10 foot square shed ever since. Jacob Tremblay is Jack, the son Ma bears after being repeatedly raped by her captor. Their story is as horrible and inspiring as any.
The film starts with Jack’s 5th birthday. He jumps out of bed and starts saying “good morning” to his world. He greets the table, chair, toilet, tub, and sink all with great enthusiasm. Ma and he bake a little cake together. It’s clear that Jack is Ma’s whole world. She lives for him. Jack’s whole world is Ma and Room, the name they give their dwelling. Ma has always told Jack that Room is what’s real and all the things they see on television are not. Everything outside Room is another planet, a place where they cannot go.
The Two Faces of Room
Looking around Room, any adult knows it’s a place of horrors. Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), Ma’s captor, comes late at night to Ma’s bed. She puts Jack in the little closet, not wanting Nick to even see Jack, let alone interact with him. Nick is the only one who knows the code to the thick steel door. The walls and ceiling have been soundproofed so no one can hear Ma and Jack scream.
For Jack, Room is a place of wonder. It’s where Ma shows him love. For decoration, they make an egg shell garland and hang Jack’s drawings around Room. They roll up the rug, put it in the tub and do their daily stretches and exercise in Room. The stuff on TV is not real, only Room.
But now it’s been seven years since Ma was taken and Jack’s five. He’s old enough to learn the truth about the world and help he and Ma escape from Old Nick. The scene when Ma tells Jack the truth shows the talent of these two actors, especially young Jacob Tremblay. Imagine what it would be like to see the world for the first time. Tremblay’s expressions capture Jack’s wonder but also his fear.
If the first half of the film wasn’t tense enough, the second half is even more so as we wonder how Jack and Ma will adjust to life outside Room. Joan Allen and William H. Macy are fabulous as Ma’s parents. Life has changed for more than just Ma and Jack.
Room made me think of the story of Samson in the Old Testament (Judges 13-16). The source of Samson’s strength was his hair. Jack had long hair, too. Old Nick never gave Ma any scissors so Jack’s hair had grown. When his grandma wanted to cut it, Jack would not allow it. Ma had told him that his hair was his strength. When Ma was suffering terribly from PTSD and in the hospital after a terrible incident, Jack asks Grandma to cut his hair so he can send it to Ma so she could have strength. When she’s finally discharged, she shows Jack the hair she has kept in a plastic bag, telling him that his strength saw her through the dark moments.
We each have strength. It may not be symbolized in the length of our hair or any other physical manifestation. Grace is our strength, given us by God. The Holy Spirit lives within us as a result of our baptism. We can share our strength with others. This is the grace of being a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. When I have strength I can share it with you if you need it. When I need strength, you can share some of yours with me. We are all family in Christ.