ROOM, based on Emma Donohue’s incredible, best-selling book of the same name, is an extremely powerful story that has resonated with me since I first saw it. As a huge fan of the book, I was nervous that the film wouldn’t be able to live up to it. But thanks in large part to Lenny Abrahamson’s direction, a fantastic script written by the author herself, and beautiful performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, ROOM is one of the best book adaptations I have seen.
ROOM is a beautiful story about humanity, love, and sacrifice told from the perspective of a young boy, Jack (Tremblay), who is stuck living in one room with his Ma (Brie Larson). As it turns out, Ma was abducted as a teenager and locked in a small shed/room; her only light was a small skylight. Years of physical and sexual abuse gave way to a pregnancy, and the birth of Jack. Now, at 5 years old, the only thing Jack knows is the world his mother made for him in the small “Room”. And now that he is old enough to understand a plan to enable their escape, Jack is given the biggest task of his life – securing freedom from Room for himself and his Ma.
What I love most about the story is that it is realistic, even when you may be hoping for a fairy tale ending. It’s obvious that Donohue made a concerted effort to study the effects a trauma like this would have on a person, both mentally and biologically. And since half of the movie focuses on captivity and the other on re-entrance back into society, it’s important that she was true to the story, the characters, and their experiences. As we find out, the exit from Room was just the beginning of Ma and Jack’s struggle. Whereas Jack had to discover what it was like to live in the “real world”, with so much stimulation, and transition out of his security in Room, Ma had to finally deal with the traumatic events that happened to her. Now she has to fight for her life outside of confinement.
I was able to briefly talk to Brie Larson about her experience working on the film. I have been a long-time fan of her work, first seeing her in the Showtime series UNITED STATES OF TARA and then being obsessed with her performance in SHORT TERM 12, my favorite movie of 2013. Brie was just as sweet and lovely as you would expect, giving insightful answers to our questions and a hug goodbye. Check out my question below and make sure you go see room IMMEDIATELY!! You will not regret it and will surely see Brie and maybe even little Jacob at the Oscars next year.
My Review: A
Lauren B.: I was reading that you put a lot of preparation into the filming process. You went on a limited diet and even stayed closed-off in your house for awhile. Can you talk about that and what your first indulgence was when you got out of isolation?
Brie Larson: Sure! Well, I went on a restrictive diet of basically no carbs or sugar for three months before I started shooting and then we had three months of shooting, so about six months. No toast or sweet potatoes, which was really painful since it was the dead of winter in Toronto; it’s like all your body wants. And I stayed at home for a month. Part of my research in trying to understand where the brain would be at 7 years into being in a confined space… it’s a lot different than if we were starting this movie a week in [to the character’s time in Room]. We can almost comprehend that easier than 7 years. That is so abstract. I remember I had friends who had gone to these silent retreats, where you can go for like ten days and are not allowed to speak to anybody or look at anybody because that is also seen as a form of communication. You are basically just in stillness and quiet with yourself and you see what comes up. I imagine [Ma] had years of that, so I decided to try to see what would happen for a month, which really wasn’t very hard for me because I think I just like being at home.
What came up was really interesting because I remembered… whenever I sign onto a project, there are certain things I know for sure are the reasons why I am interested in it and then there are new discoveries as to why you’re connected to something. In the stillness, I remembered this memory from my childhood. I was about seven or eight years old (my sister was about three or four) and my mom had packed up our old Mercedes. We each had a couple pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts, and a pair of shoes each. We were really broke at that time and we lived in a room that wasn’t much bigger than Room. The bed came out of a wall. We basically just ate Top Ramen and those 2 for 99 cent Jack In The Box tacos. We didn’t have any toys, but I remembered it being one of the greatest times of my life because my mom has an incredible imagination and turned that space into something that was bigger than those four walls.
There was one memory in particular that I had completely forgotten, where we were all sleeping in the same bed together and I woke up to my mom in these choking sobs but she was covering her mouth with her hands so we couldn’t hear. I remember just thinking, ‘This sounds like when my toys are taken away from me,’ but I didn’t know any more than that. In now being twenty-four when I remembered this, I realized what had happened was my dad had asked for a divorce. My mom had packed up the car and driven us from Sacramento to Los Angeles, having $4,000 to her name, not knowing anybody there, and living my dream of wanting to be an actor at seven [years old]. She was figuring out what her identity was, trying to find a place and trying to figure out how to survive and who she was now. But, I never knew this as a kid. I only saw this world of imagination around me and I think it was my mom’s way of coping with that situation as well. If me and my sister were having fun and laughing and being entertained and creating this alternate reality, that was a world that she could go into and live it herself. She didn’t have to fully stay in her adult world of pain.