NOTE: This is a spoiler-filled revisit of “Room.” If you are planning to see “Room,” do not read this!
In my four-star review of the stunningly original “Room,” I went into some plot detail about the first half of the movie, during which Brie Larson’s Ma and Jacob Tremblay’s Jack are held prisoner in a garden shed that is the only world Jack has ever known.
Even though many reviews and some of the ads for the movie strongly suggest or state outright Ma and Jack eventually escape, I opted not to directly say as much, in the hopes at least some viewers (who hadn’t read the book) would experience “Room” with the same fantastically claustrophobic I felt when seeing it the first time. They’d wonder: Is this WHOLE MOVIE going to take place in this little room?
Now “Room” is out in the world, with a 96 percent overall “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and Oscar buzz for Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. I’ve seen a number of prestige films in the last few weeks, but if I were putting together my Best of the Year list today, “Room” would at the top.
So let’s talk about “Room” after we leave Room.
On the morning after Ma tricks Old Nick (Sean Bridges) into believing Jack is dead, and Jack heroically escapes the clutches of Old Nick and leads the police to the shed, Ma and Jack wake up in another room.
A hospital room.
It’s an oversized room with floor-to-ceiling windows. White is the dominant color. Everything looks sterile — clean — and of course there are few safer and more healing rooms in the world than a hospital room.
In other words, this room is the polar opposite of the dark, dank, unsanitary and oppressive Room that until several hours ago was Jack’s entire world.
Director Lenny Abrahamson and the set design team bring a similar attention to detail with the house where Ma grew up, a home occupied these days by Ma’s mother Nancy (Joan Allen) and Nancy’s boyfriend Leo (Tom McCamus). The home where Ma and Jack come to live.
It’s a comfortable, upper-middle-class split-level appointed in warm, inviting colors — the kind of home where you can imagine a family sitting around the kitchen table at night, long after dinner is over, catching up on their day. The kind of home with one of those centerpiece “great rooms” where everyone gathers to watch football or host the extended family for Thanksgiving.
But Nancy’s home becomes something of a larger, albeit loving, version of Room. With the media camped outside the door 24/7, Ma and Jack can’t leave the house. Thrown by the news of her parents’ divorce and her mother’s romance with an old family friend, overwhelmed by returning to the house she last saw when she was 17, Ma falls into a deep depression and holes up in her bedroom, which is exactly as she left it seven years earlier. As she did in Room, she yearns for sleep so she can be dead to the reality of her life for at least a few hours.
Ma’s father (William H. Macy) can’t even look Jack in the eye without thinking about Jack’s father, Ma’s rapist. Jack meets Grandpa — and Grandpa is unable to show the poor child a flicker of emotion.
Not that the second half of “Room” is all gloom and doom. (Forgive me for sounding a little bit like Jack there, who narrates the story like a very dark Dr. Seuss tale.)
Some of the warmest and most touching moments spring from the relationship between Leo and Jack. Leo wisely takes a casual approach with the boy — offering him some cereal for breakfast, chatting him up about this and that, eventually inquiring as to whether Jack would like to meet Leo’s dog.
Oh, that dog scene. Remember, for the first five years of Jack’s life, he was led to believe dogs were creatures of fanciful fiction, no more real than dragons or unicorns. (When Jack escapes from Old Nick, a passerby with a rather fierce-looking dog comes to his aid, but Jack is so traumatized, we’re not even sure he was aware of the dog.)
But when Jack meets Leo’s dog, it’s a moment so beautiful and wonderful, if you don’t tear up, well, my guess is you NEVER cry at the movies.
It’s almost as if Jack is saying to himself: I’m a real boy. I’m a real boy.