Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Vuvu Rating: 8/10
This emotionally complex film opens with the daily routine of the main characters Ma, played by Brie Larson, and her son Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay, who are imprisoned in a small soundproof shed that they call Room. Their captor is only known as Old Nick and ritualistically rapes Ma whilst Jack finds sanctuary in the wardrobe and dreams of an imaginary dog named Lucky. This tiny Room has been Jack’s entire world his whole life, to a point where he believes that there is nothing outside it. A unique universe is created for the 5-year-old by his mother, where he personifies the only objects he has ever known inside the tiny room including bendy spoon, wardrobe, and egg snake. It becomes evident that there is a strong bond between mother and child and they keep each other going through the ordeal of confronting what lies beyond the locked door.
The film spends a long time inside the room, helping to create a feeling of confinement that resonates with the audience through the use of tight close-up shots and muted colours. This keeps the audience trapped in Room along with the characters and helps to make the desperation for them to escape even more compelling. The only reprieve being the glimpse of blue sky and rain drops from the tiny skylight.
It also highlights the different ways in which the characters experience the room. For Ma it’s a prison and an entire world that goes “all the way to the end” for Jack. The way in which she maintains a life as close to normal as possible is both reassuring and unsettling within this four walled prison. The Oscar-winning performance by Larson is raw and understated, and at times skirts on the edge of being exceptional. For his part, Tremblay gives an excellent and real portrayal with enough balance between emotional depth and the innocence of a child.
The child’s ability to find light in the world allows the film to show how the human spirit transcends adversity. Director Lenny Abrahamson manages to capture the childlike naiveté and a sense of hope in this film that can be likened to an allegory of growing up and leaving childhood behind.
The film has the ability to absorb you into the characters’ tiny world whilst keeping you on the edge of your seat praying they escape Room.
With the 2016 Oscars behind us and the attention fixed on the Best Picture competitors, many of the brilliant short films nominated seem to slip by unnoticed.
Each of these films nominated for the Live Action Short Films category of the Oscars encapsulates a unique social issue or political within its narrative driven by the extraordinary lives of characters that manages to keep you captivated despite being less than a quarter of the length of your average film.
1. Ava Maria – 6/10
The lives of Nuns in the West Bank who are in the middle of a vow of silence are turned upside down when a bickering Israeli family crash their car into the wall of their convent.
The 14 minute film mixes a comedic element into the strained and tense setting in a country at war. Some of the characters make use of caricature like the elderly mother in-law who is constantly arguing with her daughter in-law and the strict nun. The film is entertaining yet lacks the same riveting narrative of its competitors have.
2. Day One – 8/10
An Afghani interpreter for the US army is thrown into the job on the first day when she must bridge the cultural gap and help the pregnant wife of a suspected bomb-maker. This story takes a refreshing look on the traditional American action films set in the middle east. It brings another usually unseen side to the tales and the complex issues of culture and tradition when two nations collide and is able to surprise and take unexpected turns despite its 25 minute screen time. This could easily be made into a feature film after the events leave the audience begging to know what could happen on day two, or three?
3. Shok- 8/10
Two friends in Kosovo find themselves in the middle of a volatile country at war during an occupation in the 90’s. The boys soon become involved in a dangerous situation that tests the limits of their friendship and could even threaten their lives. The film is based on true events and is a heart retching tale of friendship being torn apart by war. Filmed in a grey palette that creates an effective atmosphere of the desperate times and the devastation that was left behind and using a bicycle as a central metaphor for the innocence and devastation of the time creates a successful and captivating narrative.
4. Stutterer- 9/10
A lonely typographer with a severe speech impediment is confronted with his biggest fear, meeting the object of his affections in his online relationship in person. This is a charming and humorous film with touches of romance portrayed in a quirky narrative that still manages to highlight the far reaching consequences of a stutter. The film is shot with extreme close ups of the main character that bring the audience into his thoughts and feelings along with his eloquent inner dialogue. The ending of the film is however reminiscent of every well rounded happily ever after romcom except for its long metaphorical moment of silence. But you’re happy it does.
5. Everything will be okay – 9/10
What starts out as a usual weekend were a divorced father picks his 8-year-old daughter, Lea, up for the weekend soon becomes anything other than the typical weekend visit when his plan unfolds. This film leaves the audience with a complex moral dilemma and is shot using a hand-held camera technique as well as makes the audience see things from the eyes of a child. The character of Lea is also expertly played by young actress Julia Pointner that far exceeds her age and helps to realize the conflicting emotions present in the separation of parent from child. The end of the film leaves the audience asking if everything will be okay.