Okay so it can be a little hard to get these posts up while reading Scriptshadow 250 scripts, hence the delays in posting and the no official post today. With that said, I did get a chance to see ROOM last night and wanted to share my thoughts with you. In short, holy shit, this might be the best film of the year.
Usually when you have a film that only deals in emotions, and specifically one that deals in negative emotions, the movie can feel like a melodramatic mess. But ROOM avoids this due to some amazing acting and some crafty screenwriting.
For those who know nothing about the film but plan to see it, I’d suggest not reading this review, as I do go into spoilers. But, to be honest, this movie isn’t about spoilers at all. It’s about relationships, particularly the relationship between a mother and her son.
It follows Joy, a young women who was kidnapped by a man pretending to have a sick dog seven years ago. She’s since been stuck in this small secure room that’s impossible to get out of. Her captor has raped her every day, and five years ago, she had a little boy, Jack. The unique thing about the story is that we experience a lot of the world through Jack’s eyes. And this room is all he knows. He has no idea what the real world is really like.
This leads to one of the most harrowing dramatic scenes you’ll see all year. Joy’s had enough and is ready to escape. But to do so, she has to sacrifice her son. After setting up an extended fake illness to make her captor believe Jack is dying, she teaches Jack to pretend to be dead, then rolls him up in a rug and, the next time her captor comes, convinces him that Jack is dead and needs to be buried.
Of course, Jack is really alive, and he’s been taught to jump out of the flat bed of Captor’s pick-up truck and run for help when the truck stops. What makes the scene so amazing is that Jack HAS NEVER EXPERIENCED THE REAL WORLD BEFORE. Imagine that all you know is a 10 foot by 10 foot room and then having ONE SHOT to save yourself and your mother’s life, and you have to do it an endless world you’ve never seen before.
I don’t think my heart has ever beaten so fast.
But Room is captivating for so many other reasons, one of which is the screenplay itself. The script is divided into two halves. The first half occurs in “Room” and the second half in the real world as they try and adjust to this new completely different life. You have Joy, who thought once she escaped she’d be happy, but is instead traumatized by the event and therefore miserable. And then you have Jack, who’s trying to learn to live in a strange world with an infinite set of new rules.
One of the most heartbreaking moments is when Jack asks his mom if they can go back to Room. That’s all he knows. And because Joy protected him so well while they were in that room (pretended that all was okay), he actually liked it there.
Here’s where things get interesting though. As a screenwriter, all I kept thinking was, “This movie is going to die once they get out of Room.” Because think about it. When they’re in Room, the goal is clear – get out of Room. Escape. But once you’re out, where is the narrative engine? What are the characters trying to get to now?
Indeed, the second of the script is not as structured, but by God somehow they make it work. We’re obviously going to go along with the characters for a few scenes once they get into the real world. We’re curious to see Joy reconnect with her parents and Jack make sense of this alien universe.
But what then? How do you keep the audience engaged?
They pull this off by doing something really clever. Joy has a mental breakdown and has to go get extended treatment. This leaves Jack alone at the house with his grandparents. The narrative thrust, then, comes from something really odd. We want Jack and Joy to be together again. We spent 60 minutes with these two inside a small room together where the two were each other’s world. Something feels unfinished if they’re apart. So there really is no “goal” per se from this point on. We just need to see the two back together again.
And when Joy finally does come back and we get that satisfaction, they add one last piece of narrative thrust. Jack needs to see Room again. And it totally makes sense. This was this kid’s entire life. He has an incredibly strong attachment to it. So he needs to go back. And so does Joy, in a way. They need that closure. And man is it intense when they do go.
This is a small movie that doesn’t have anything other than acting and writing driving it. But it does such an amazing job on those two fronts that I would recommend all of you go see it. It’s top-notch stuff.
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: I’m all about character goals driving the narrative, as you know. The second half of Room has made me reconsider some things. Maybe it’s okay just to have something unfinished driving the story. Two characters seeing each other again. If we love those characters enough, then we don’t need goals. We just need that closure of seeing the two with each other once more.