In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, he tells the story of a group of people who have lived chained in a cave their whole life, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from things passing in front of a fire behind them, and they begin to give names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. To them, that is reality. Nothing else exists past that wall, and trying to enlighten them otherwise would only be met with confusion and disbelief.
There comes a moment in Lenny Abrahamson’s drama Room that resembles a modern undertaking of the Allegory of the Cave. In a stand out moment, a woman sits in a bleak room at a table across from her son Jack. Now that he is 5 years old, she feels it is time that he understands that there is more to the world than just that room, that there is trees and animals and other human beings out there other than the two of them and their captor, Nick. As simple as it sounds to us the viewer, the truth sounds like fantasy to the child, who unlike his mother, was born in the room. That is just one of many moments you begin to grasp the alienation the two of them feel.
I boarded the Brie Larson bandwagon back in 2013 after seeing Short Term 12, a fantastic little indie film about at-risk teens. As many others have realised now, she possesses immense talent, rewarded duly so by her Best Actress Oscar earlier this year for this exact film, and it doesn’t take a boffin to understand why. Throughout Room she shows emotional range that would be expected of a mother in such dire circumstances. Even though kidnapping and imprisonment is known to be a real world occurrence (and not an uncommon one) Larson’s performance resonates enormously so that we all share in a situation that would be a nightmare to so many.
Alongside the perfectly innocent performance of Jacob Tremlay as young Jack, there are a few moments in Room that have you gasping for breath and cowering from view, mannerisms expected of horror films. That isn’t because the film is necessarily frightening, but that you become so emotionally involved in their plight and struggle for salvation that you hang off their every action, knowing that one wrong move could mean they lose all hope of ever leaving the room. There is one moment in particular where I struggled for breath, perfectly shot and directed in the most tense example of poetry in motion I have ever seen.
Unfortunately Room is an emotional stampede and that dies down in it’s second act, but it’s still a fantastic analysis into post-traumatic stress disorder and the reality behind the effect that kidnapping has on everyone, a side of events not often depicted in film. Despite that, Room will stand as one of the most profound and deeply moving dramas of the 21st century, and one that would leave even the toughest individual with a quivering lip.