Room

rachel-room

Room, written by the Irish author Emma Donoghue, was published in 2010. It was around that same time that I read her novel and now, 6 years later, a film adaptation of the novel has been released, directed by the Irish film director Leonard Abrahamson. Room is about Jack, a 5 year old boy, and his mother (referred to as “ma” throughout the story) who live in a small room because (as is later found out) Jack’s mother was kidnapped by a man seven years ago. This man, who goes by the name of “Old Nick”, is the only one who has the key to their space and who brings them food and other basic necessities. Horrifyingly, “Old Nick” frequently abuses Jack’s mother and rapes her. Jack is the product of this, and he grows up in the room with his mother, whom he calls “ma”. The entire plot is narrated by Jack, which is very special, in my opinion, because we get the perspective of an innocent 5 year old boy who is in a situation that is otherwise very serious. His voice provides some comic relief to the plot.

A majority of the plot takes place in a confined space: the room. This part of the plot is both upsetting and brilliant. The small space creates endless creative possibilities in the mind of 5 year old Jack – his vocabulary is different from that of others and the fact that he is shielded from outside influences (except for the TV and the stories from his “ma”) make his imagination unique and interesting. “Egg snake are our longest friends, and fanciest. Melted spoon is the best to eat with because he is blobbier […] lamp’s the brightest, except for when the power is cut” – this is an excerpt from a scene where Jack talks about the basic objects in his “house” as extraordinary things. Out of necessity, Jack was forced to create his own world. For a long time his mother decides to not tell her son about the “real world”, to avoid confusion and fear. Like the rest of us, Jack can only comprehend things in relation to other things that we already understand. That’s why it becomes a problem when his mother decides to explain her “past life” to him; Jack thinks his “ma” is lying to him because he cannot believe the idea that his mother has lived in, what is to him, a completely different world. This is where the room is limiting Jack: he does not understand what is beyond his tiny room. When he finally escapes the room with his mother, he meets endless new things, concepts, words and people. And, when Jack goes back to his room to “have a look”, he realizes how small it seems compared to when he was in it.

This part of the novel and of the film were quite odd to me, mainly because I couldn’t understand why a boy would want to go back to have a look at the place where his mother’s kidnapper held them hostage. At first I thought that he suffered from Stockholm syndrome, because it seemed as if Jack saw the room as a place of comfort when in reality it was a place where horrible things happened to him and to his mother. But then I remembered that Jack was born in the room and that, despite many bad memories, he also has a lot of good ones. I saw this part of the plot as a symbol of Jack’s perspective of the world broadening. This is something that can be seen throughout the second half of the movie. At the beginning of Jack’s entry into the “real world” he says: “I’ve been in the world 37 hours […] I’ve seen persons with different faces and bigness and smells talking all together […] there’s doors and more doors and behind all the doors there’s another inside and another outside and things happen, happen, happen, it never stops, plus the world is always changing brightness and hotness”. As Jack enters into the “real world” the audience gets to see his reaction, which is often very interesting. The film adaptation of this novel has put Jack’s experiences into visual form, which makes it a beautiful film to watch. Needless to say, if you haven’t seen Room (or read the novel) already, I highly recommend you to do so!

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