Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Review

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

'Room' Review--The Guardian

"Despite parallels with appalling real-life news storiesRoom is neither a horror movie nor a film about crime and/or captivity. (If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll already know more than I shall reveal here; Abrahamson is clear that “we’re not marketing it as a thriller”, and stresses that potential viewers should be “pretty clear where it ends up”.) Instead, it focuses on how the human spirit may transcend physical boundaries, and the disparity between external and internal freedom. In the early stages of the film, Stephen Rennicks’s superbly empathetic score emphasises the gentle domesticity, rather than the shrieking claustrophobia, of Jack and Ma’s circumstances, later giving way to sustained ambient chimes that lend an unearthly edge to our own alien world. (This Will Destroy You’s The Mighty Rio Grande is also employed to devastating effect.)

"That domesticity is a source of both reassurance and disturbance, and is indeed one of the film’s most brilliantly balanced elements. Behind the modern gothic trappings, this tale of an imprisoned woman resourcefully protecting her child from a violent male presence has a universal edge. Just as fantastical fairytales so often unpick the conflicts of family life, so Room owes less to the lurid legacy of the Josef Fritzl case (or to films such as Markus Schleinzer’s Michael) than to the more everyday experiences of women and children who rise above domestic abuse. When Ma’s captor, “Old Nick”, bleats that she has no idea how hard the world is for him, he sounds less like a kidnapper than a self-justifying wife-beater. And just as Jack’s mother protects him, so Abrahamson and Donoghue shield us too – not with the dewy eyes of cod sentimentality, but with the steely resolve of those determined to look the world in the face without succumbing to exploitation."

Though this particular review (and all the others I've seen of this movie) haven't been as specific as I'd like them to be, I think that these two paragraphs from The Guardian's review do a fantastic job of summing up why this story is different from what one might expect a kidnapping story to be. It's also different than thriller-style stories, or thriller-style/whimsical ones around the subject (looking at you, The Lovely Bones). 

What this review and others miss, however, is the opportunity to focus in on a theme. Yes, anyone with empathy can see the arch and idea of the film from the trailer. Watching it, you get more. I want a review to focus on Ma's inability to let go of bitterness after their escape, to discuss her slight disdain for Jack as she looks for independence back in the world. It begs the question: Why do we expect perfection out of our mothers, even ones who themselves were scared children when they became one? 

I want a review to focus on Ma's father, and how he couldn't even look at Jack because he saw him only as a product of the violence Ma lived through.

I want a review to focus more, as I hear the novel it's self does, on Jack's perspective as a (rightfully) selfish child who thinks of Room as a safe place, his world, even after he's left. How he makes Ma return their to say goodbye. 

These are places where I think the film truly succeeds in showing the complex nature of the characters, and not just focus on the "beauty" that is found in such a terrible situation. There is ugly there, too, and it's just as powerful.

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