Room ★★★★½

Their world is Room. Ma and Jack live their lives in this windowless prison, pushing through the difficult nights with their captor and passing time with each other during the days. Light shines through a skylight above, a constant reminder that the world doesn’t end with this claustrophobic space, that there’s so much to be learned and explored outside the confines of Room, of innocence, of childhood. This is a movie about the emotional trauma of imprisonment, but it’s also a fascinating look at what it means to grow up and to be a parent.

Brie Larson is that parent, several emotions flickering across her face at any moment as Ma watches her son grow. Exhaustion and pride, annoyance and determination, frustration and pure love. It’s all part of Larson’s extremely wide range, and it’s all part of a performance that moves and devastates as it brings the two halves of the movie together (they’re bridged by a brilliantly done escape sequence). Jacob Tremblay is key here as well, a nine year old actor who beautifully acts as the audience’s eyes and ears. Through frequent close-ups and a voiceover, we’re shown the fear and uncertainty and natural curiosity of a child who has yet to know any other environment.

On that note, the film does a nice job of contrasting its two main environments: the dark and tiny Room with Joy’s (Ma’s) spacious family home. As we realize, however, they both can be prisons in their own ways, the latter constantly surrounded by the media and by the escalating tension about where to go next. The film’s most intriguing question comes during a television interview there: Joy’s asked whether she ever thought about getting Old Nick–her captor–to take Jack away so he could be free, so he could have a normal life. Joy responds by insisting that Jack having her was enough and essential, but she’s clearly shattered by the follow-up: “Was that the best thing for him?” This gets at parenthood as a whole, tying Room to a blissful ignorance that can be both necessary and harmful (it’s not an easy thing to explore– especially in this context–but it’s done quite well). In the end, though, the film is not just about the environment you create for your kid, but rather the environment you create with him or her.The world can be a restrictive place, but it’s also as big as you make it. It’s all about moving through life together, about being torn apart and reunited, about holding each other tight as you share the pain, the small pleasures, the joy. Then, maybe you can let go.

GRADE: A-

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