Room is an exceptional adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Emma Donoghue, which heartbreakingly displays a mother’s resilience through the unique perspective of her 5-year old son Jack. One of my good friends had been praising this novel for months and months, so I spent the beginning of the year diving into the story and I am so happy I did. The moment I finished the novel I had the overwhelming urge to see how it would unravel on the big screen, so I bought my ticket the next day! If you enjoyed this book and/or novel as much as I did, see below for a recap summary as well as a comparison of key plot changes from book to film.
The direction of the film by Lenny Abrahamson was absolutely brilliant, which is why he unsurprisingly has been nominated for Best Director at this year’s Academy Awards. Also, Emma Donoghue has earned herself a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and the film is up for Best Picture. However, I personally believe that the acting of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay deserves the true credit for bringing this story to life. Larson has rightfully earned herself a Best Actress nomination for her portrayal as Ma, but Jacob Tremblay should receive just as much credit as he took us on a unique discovery as young Jack.
The story begins as Jack awakes on his fifth birthday and says good morning to all of the items in the single-room shed that he and his Ma live in. The camera pans from the bed and tiny wardrobe, to the small kitchenette, bathtub, toilet, and finally to the steel door and electronic padlock. To the viewer this is heartbreaking to see as we know all to well that these two do not belong here, but for young Jack all of these items are his to love. Ma has spent the first four years of Jack’s life explaining that everything in their room is real, but the rest of the world only exists in their small 3-channel TV in an attempt to spare him the disappointment of the world she cannot give him.
Ma’s strength and resilience shines throughout the film as she tries her best to keep Jack healthy and happy by challenging him with daily physical and mental activities. They sing songs to match their conversations, do plyometric exercises, and play with several of Ma’s innovative toys including Egg Snake, Battleship, and Maze. Old Nick, the man who kidnapped Ma seven years earlier and Jack’s biological father, provides weekly groceries and a “Sunday treat” of more expensive necessities. On this particular Sunday Ma is disappointed as Old Nick did not bring Jack’s vitamins as they were too expensive. Once Ma pushes him for details he tells her that he lost his job six months earlier, and is currently in danger of losing him home.
The next morning Ma decides that she will no longer accept her fate, as she fears for her son and knows that Old Nick will leave them both for dead if the house is ceased. Ma decides to tell Jack the truth about the world outside of room, which he believes is a trick and is overwhelmed by this new knowledge. After a small confrontation during the night with Old Nick, the two wake up to the power being cut and Ma becomes frantic. She convinces Jack to be her little hero by pretending to have a fever so that Old Nick will take him to the hospital. However, Old Nick gets scared and says he’ll bring antibiotics for Jack the next night. Ma moves on to Plan B which is to pretend that Jack is dead so Old Nick will take Jack, wrapped up in Rug, outside of Room. The night comes and Ma plays her role perfectly as Jack finds himself being carried into an unknown world. Once he’s in the truck he hears Ma in his head “Dead, Truck, Wriggle Out, Jump, Run, Somebody, Note, Police, Blowtorch”, truck, jump, person, save ma” and then snaps into action!
I’m going to leave the summary there for those who haven’t had a chance to read the book or see the film yet and don’t want the second half spoiled! In this next section I’m going to discuss a few of my favourite parts of the film as well as the main plot changes from the book. Therefore, if you haven’t read the book or seen the film yet SKIP THIS SECTION as it contains MULTIPLE SPOILERS!!
- In the book, Ma does not go straight home to her parents house with Jack after they escape. She has a hard time adjusting after her dreadful interview as well as finding out that Old Nick has been captured. As a result, Jack has to go it alone without his Ma by his side and in the end creates a stronger bond with his Grandma and “Steppa” than in the film.
- In the book, Ma had a brother named Paul with a wife and daughter who were unfortunately cut from the film. In the book, Paul and his family were a great distraction for Jack when Ma was having a “Gone” day at the hospital. However, these characters were irrelevant once Ma came home with Jack right away to her parents house.
- In the book, the “Living” section had a major element where Ma and Jack moved out of her parent’s house and into an independent living apartment. I felt this was a great part of the book as it showed how the two were learning to adapt to life together. However, I understand that most likely due to timing this storyline was cut and instead an overview how Ma and Jack would try everything in order to figure out what they like was included. I both options worked perfectly for their mediums.
- Lastly, I have to reemphasize how incredible this adaptation was as all elements of the film from the acting to the direction to the script were everything I could have imagined and more.
“I wave up at Skylight. “Say goodbye,” I tell Ma. “Goodbye, Room.” Ma says it but on mute. I look back one more time. It’s like a crater, a hole where something happened. Then we go out the door.” – Room by Emma Donoghue
BONUS: Don’t forget to tune in on Sunday February 28 for the Academy Awards to see if the film, Brie Larson, Lenny Abrahamson, or Emma Donoghue win in their respective categories! Also, check out the video links below for an interview of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Critics’ Choice Awards.