David Pearce’s review published on Letterboxd:
"When I was small, I only knew small things. But now I'm five, I know everything"
An emotionally captivating and at times exhilarating drama boasted by immense acting, pacing and writing, but benefited most of all by a thoroughly engulfing visual style.
Just hours ago I wrote on the movie Youth, Paolo Sorrentino's most recent effort and arguably a film that exposes the director as artistically bankrupt, a movie that demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of visual language and how the camera can dictate emotion to the audience. By contrast Room is a breath of fresh air in terms of visual storytelling, just as Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room was the same year for much the same reason. Both Room and Saulnier's film have an overpowering sense of claustrophobia. Room never once leaves the side of its lead, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). This means that during all of the time that Jack and his mother (Brie Larson) are confined within the titular room, the audience remain in the room. The first time we see the outdoors it is from the perspective of Jack. When first interacting with characters that aren't Joy (Jack's mother) or Old Nick (their captor) the camera is from Jack's perspective, looking down and hiding behind his hair, out of focus and swaying, trying to look away. The film is immensely person, a fact that is enhanced by the occasional thought-tracking monologue which illustrates the sheltered nature of Jack's character. The film feels entirely honed around the character of Jack, never once featuring a scene away from the character and always using the character as a catalyst for revolutions.
This is not only a good thing but the area in which Room finds the most success, however it is not without its own disadvantages. Jacob Tremblay is not a particularly gifted actor, as one might expect of someone who was just under 10 at the time of filming. A fact that is constantly reminded when dominated by the magnificent lead of Brie Larson. It is in the nature of the manner in which director Lenny Abrahamson chose to tell this story that Jack is the centre of the story, it is the most successful aspect in having the audience vicariously invested in the story, however the unfortunate offshoot of this fact is that Brie Larson isn't given the spotlight as often as she should have, perhaps more so during the second half where her domestic struggles seemed to be the centre of the film. This leads onto the other major issue with the film, which also involves the problem with telling the story from Jack's perspective, the fact that it is heavily divided into two distinct halves. The first being the room, and the second being the domestic conflict. It is difficult to tell which is the superior as arguably they both deter from one-another. While conceptually the room half was the more interesting, only lasting an hour the film could have certainly stretched our experience within that space much more, delved into the psychology of the two victims more. Having the room half last the full two hours would make the most sense as it wouldn't feature the premature climax that is definitely felt around the middle of this film, where the big escape occurs and then we're left waiting. However that by no means decries the quality of the domestic half, in fact due to the more variety of conflicts present: the room [pun not intended] it gave Brie Larson to perform, the subtle red herring hinted at throughout, the clear Plato's cave effect the two leads were experiencing, the second half, in many ways, became more intriguing than the first. However it is burdened with the problem that not many of these conflicts actively involve Jack, but rather Joy seemed more central during the second half, yet due to a desire for coherence the film remained encapsulated within Jack. It's an unfortunate double-edge sword that would have been resolved if either one of the film's magnificent two halves were expanded and stood alone, however what is present feels like two vastly different and, regrettably, contradictory hour-long films, pushed together.
Room is a film that, despite being heavily narrative reliant, will continue to be as effective and emotionally engaging upon revisits due to how cohesive and intellectually it is shot. Though an adaptation of a novel, Lenny Abrahamson fully understands the unique and beautiful capabilities there are when translating a story to cinema, and he exploits the medium's techniques to their fullest.