Once Upon A Very Dark Time
It’s not often anyone would feel sorry for a marketing team. In fact you should never feel sorry for a film marketing team, they are the nemesis of creativity, the Kryptonite of surprise and serial killer of suspense, willing to give away every single plot element and spoiler to squeeze yet another £/$/€ out of your meagre hard earned wage packet. But then there’s absolute cinematic gems such as ‘Room’ (2015) directed by Lenny Abrahamson based on the book of the same name by Emma Donoghue that are SO difficult to pitch/sell in a simple palatable sound bite, or mention it’s story without immediately sending everyone running for the Hollywood Hills as fast as they can, when they should be sprinting to the local cinema to make sure they see it. How to sell that eh? Let’s try shall we?
Jack (Jacob Tremblay) wakes up as he has done every day for the past five years of his short time in his world and immediately surveys his entire known realm and magical universe, neatly surmised as ‘There’s Room, then outer space with all the TV planets, then Heaven’. His total cosmos in reality is a security sealed 10 by 10 foot space of infinite fantasy that his Ma (Brie Larson) has christened ‘Room’. It is the only place he has ever know as Ma was kidnapped seven years ago by their captor Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), who only visits at night to rape Ma whilst Jack sleeps in a wardrobe in the corner.
It’s at the mention of that story line that rightly folk would want to run for the grass is CGI greener in another movie. But again they would be missing out on an incredibly stunning movie that despite the subject is unbelievably uplifting, inspiring and basically a wondrous piece of visual and touching story telling. Sure it’s adult drama, but with a blend of magic, fantasy, joy and honest emotion that resonates with the viewer long after the hollow digital flavour of most cineplex floss has long been indifferently tossed onto the floor.
Such a story could only succeed if a series of enchanting creative Herculean elements all fell into place, and they have. From a very successful book lovingly nursed into a screenplay and brilliant insightful dialogue by the same author (who was regularly on set during filming), the tender touch of a very considerate director, hypnotically beautiful cinematography by Danny Cohen, fantastic/intelligent production design by Ethan Tobman and all wrapped in a mesmerising fairy tale soundtrack by Stephen Rennicks, not to mentioned a brilliant support cast in Joan Allen, Tom McCamus, William H. Macy and Sean Bridgers.
But the icing on the cake is the two leads in Larson and Tremblay. Their journey being the sole focus of the entire movie, if they didn’t match the levels of ability of the rest of the team the whole prison shed of cards would have fallen. They not only matched that standard, they knocked it out of this galaxy. Larson is stunning (rightly winning an Oscar for Best Actress for the role) as the resilient, protective, inspirational, loving mum who despite everything that has and is being done to her has nurtured a beautiful world for her child, who regardless of the reality is a normal young happy kid. Then we have eight year old (at the time of filming) Tremblay who basically puts in one of the finest performances EVER in a movie, by anyone. As much as I love Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’, after seeing Jacob in ‘Room’ there is zero doubt in my mind he should have got the Oscar for Best Actor. At no point does it look like acting in this film. His performance is worth the price of admission alone. When he cries, your heart immediately breaks, when he smiles you fly like Superman. You just want to jump into the screen and save him.
The movie is in two parts as without giving too much away, freedom has just as many seemingly insurmountable challenges thrown at them. It’s a shrewd device too in that the initial aspect deals with an story that though compelling, thankfully very few can realistically relate too, the rest is the huge pressures and toil of modern life that are pressed upon ordinary people, particularly single parents. So much of life is ‘presented’ to us (no doubt by the same marketing teams) that is so far from the realities and the struggles of parenthood that people shame themselves into depression or feelings of inadequacy when in actual fact they are doing really well considering the odds. Parents really are superheroes.
The core theme of the movie may seem to be about imprisonment, but in actual fact it’s about freedom. Freedom from the prisons we are forced into and the prisons we put ourselves in. As a brief chat between Ma and Jack sums up the adventure of life, ‘You’re gonna love it!’, ‘What?’, ‘The world’. Now that’s got to be worth jumping on board for.
There’s also some lovely background to the movie on the blu-ray extras in multiple audio commentaries and ‘Making of’ featurettes which lift the curtains of how the magic was created to create such a beautiful piece of work, just make sure you’ve watched the film first.
‘Room’ is out on blu-ray/DVD/On demand now.