Connor Watkins’s review published on Letterboxd:
Room is a peculiar tale and experience that is based on many real life cases of people subject to life kidnapped and limited to one room or a small space (though the fool unfortunately doesn’t seem to make any gesture towards this). This film absolutely opened up so much in my mind regarding this subject and the effects of this sort of life, as well as to the world at large that we so easily limit and take for granted.
Brie Larson and Jacob Trembley are sensational in this film, absolutely as if they were loving their lives, especially a young Tremblay here who’s now only 12 years later. Brie Larson certainly earned her Academy Award and Golden Globe, and plenty more. Her costar deserves them too, and certainly will end up with a huge collection as he ages, I hope.
Their chemistry was dynamic in nearly every scene. I felt so immersed and deeply affected by all of their interactions and solo performances.
Furthermore, as I opened with, the whole film is peculiar and manages to juxtapose a very sinister and gloomy atmosphere with hope and possibility in the first half. The second half manages to capture wonder and newness while also showcasing uncertainty, deep trauma, and guilt. There’s a lot to unpack about the mother-child relationship, all the good and bad that comes from it, and how personal it all is, all the nuance to the role parents play in their child’s life and vice verse. The themes and ability this film has of making you think about your own life and somehow place yourself in the shoes of these characters is astounding.
This film has a lot of potential, and lands so much of what it was going for, but the second half of the film does lack the depth and cohesion I was hoping for, and how could we have asked for all of that after the beginning? Though the film shows a lot of the aftermath effects, there is a lot to be desired with Brie Larson’s character. The drama of the second half is rooted in her trauma and mental state, but we don’t get anything to substantiate what is going on past what we know and can assume. I understand the sense of childlike unknowing, but I still felt the film had need to go there. It never revisits or gives much insight into Old Nick either, which is a bit lackluster. Also, I just realized that there was never an explanation for the grandfsther’s behavior! I got a sense of him seeing the context behind Jack’s existence and perhaps him not being able to accept, but this thread was never explained or picked back up for it to be such a big moment in the plot. Besides these two big things, I also just felt like for all that leftover run time we would have gotten more than some montages of all the newness and learning Jack had to do, and even Ma after all those years captive. It needed just a little more work and care with the resolution after a succinct and supremely effective first 45 minutes to an hour.
Also, I also had a little skepticism about the plan that works midway through the film. It seems a little far fetched, but there is just enough for it to work, and I assume it’s based on some bit of truth. Jack’s descriptions being enough too is a bit unbelievable, but it was done well enough, so I’m willing to look past these things to love the film.
This film is so powerful in all of the emotions it evokes and in it’s storytelling, but it leaves out a lot of important matters and misses out on some great aspects of the film that feel crucial to me. The performances are really the stars of the show alongside the premise and power in both. I wish I could give it a bump, but the performances can’t be everything, sadly for those two and the rest of the cast. Still, there’s so much to love on screen that is given love and focus. 8/10