Room: Ways of Knowing and Seeing in Tight Spaces
My wife and I recently watched the recent film Room, a story about a young woman and her son that are trapped in an 11x11 shed. The movie begins in the shed as Ma, played by Brie Larson, and Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay are doing life in the shed, from brushing teeth, cooking, to playing with a toy car. Old Nick as they call him, kidnapped Ma when she was 17, and now they are under lock and key for some seven years at this, point, Jack being 5 at this point. The movie chronicles the escape that Ma plans as she plays it off to Nick that their son is dead, all rolled up in a very large rug. Upon escaping, the authorities find Ma and the two are reunited, yet all is not as it seems due to Jack’s entire life being lived in this 11x11 shed.
Before the escape, Ma tries to explain to Jack about the outside world, a hammock at Grandma’s and ice cream, yet Jack cannot venture with her to these ideas, in part, because he knows no other life than in the shed. The scene makes you get under the skin of Jack’s character, for someone who is literally sheltered all their life, the outside world is something of fairy tales or bewildering stories. Yet, through the tears of Ma’s character, her words and her heart reach into Jack’s life and begin to make sense to him, not in fully ways but in partial glimpses of a greater reality than he is experiencing right now. He glimpses of a world outside the shed, but he knows not when this vision will meet reality. It is not until he begins to unroll himself out of the large rug in the back of Old Nick’s pickup that he catches a glimpse of the sunlight, the radiance of the outside world.
Jack struggles in the home of his grandparents to relate to anyone outside of his mother, yet, through time, he learns to let people into his world. Yet, you don’t really get to see the blossoming of Jack until two events happen, one, his step-father’s dog Seamus comes back home and he begins to forge friendships with other boys. Jack engages the world through a series of close knit relationships that help sustain his growth as a young boy. Yet, it is not the initial relationships outside the shed that solidify his close connections but it is in the time in the shed with his Ma that deepen his ties to people, people who care about him. There is a real sense in the movie that Ma played by Brie Larson sought to create as much as a routine each day as she could, for both the well-being and sanity of her and Jack.
Room is a beautiful movie about a mother’s love for her son, survival, what it means to make it in small shed, and most of all, the connections people forge with each other amidst a cruel world.
Here is a few clips of the movie with a brilliant discussion with the director.