Slight spoilers. Ma and Jack live in a room. It is all that Jack has ever known. He is not aware of the world outside it, and he thinks that people on TV do not really exist and that food arrives by magic. One day, he and Ma escape, and Jack sees the rest of the world for the very first time.
Room is an incredibly powerful film. And… I cannot think of a single thing that could be improved in it.
So, whatever this film may mean to you personally, it will depend on your affinity for the story and the themes that it addresses, because there are no real faults that mar the goal or the message or the effectiveness of the film. And for a film that is so personal, that deals with such personal themes as safety and freedom and parenthood and family and mental sanity, I feel that a review that is clinical and detached in its evaluative criticism is a bit inappropriate.
So personally, I felt very emotional during this film. It is the kind of movie-going experience where you sit in a daze while the credits roll. And half an hour later at home I am still sitting in silence. I have to applaud Brie Larson (Ma) and Jacob Tremblay (Jack) for their performances. Larson got an Oscar for it and the Academy should have created the category of Best Child Actor to properly honor Jacob Tremblay. Their relationship feels very natural. They carry the film on their shoulders and it wouldn’t be as involving without their efforts.
The film also takes their relationship as the main theme; more than the traumatic experiences they go through. This could easily have been a thriller, like Prisoners (2013), but the crimes and the flight and the investigations and so on are simply set aside when another director would have focused on them, because these are merely the forces that push and pull against the relationship of Ma and Jack, and that is the real topic and a more difficult story to tell than a simple chase movie.
I don’t think I have ever felt more emotions during a film. And not just big simple ones like fright and consolation, but all sorts of more complex feelings that come out of the simple dialogues. In the second half, especially, Ma and Jack encounter all these people and interact with them while doing through this trauma, and little moments make me feel like I got PTSD myself. Little throwaway lines that Jack utters to people make you stop and feel for everyone in the room.
Room has two acts in its story like two cycles of tension and release, with a shortened transition between them. Throughout the first hour, the main feelings are discomfort and horror that build up to an unendurable tension, and in the second hour there is a release, but also a slow realization that Ma and Jack may have left the room physically, but psychologically they haven’t left yet. In small details, we see that they are still busy with it, like Jack building a little house from Lego. This tension again builds up, but it is a different kind of tension, until a second good ending also gives release again.
See this movie for its power in acting and storytelling. Only avoid it if you think that the subject matter of captivity and flight makes you too uncomfortable.