Oscar contender ‘Room’ brings hope to hopeless situation

I almost feel like I’m doing “Room” a disservice by giving you 500 or so words of description and analysis. If you have any interest in it and you haven’t read or seen much about it, just stop reading and go see it.

Going into it with little knowledge besides the basic premise, “Room” was the most pleasant of surprises; it’s a movie I just sort of sat and absorbed, free of expectations, (with the end result of me knowing it definitely deserves its Best Picture nomination.)

Warning: Some plot details are gruesome.

Joy (Brie Larson) has been held in captivity in a man’s shed for seven years, subject to periodic rape at the whims of her captor, which resulted in the birth of her 5-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). She’s raised Jack entirely on her own inside the room, deliberately limiting his exposure to his father.

“Room” frames everything from Jack’s perspective, meaning the audience has to learn the unique set of rules by which he understands the world. He has no concept of a world outside these walls, befriending inanimate objects and believing all animals besides the ones he can see (spiders and mice) to be imaginary.

The first half of the film takes place in this dungeon, so as an audience, we are forced to endure this cramped, miserable space for just long enough to make their escape (a beautifully tense sequence) all the more cathartic.

You’ll learn to appreciate a ray of sunshine in a way you probably never have before.

From then on, we shift to a mother and her son trying to adjust to life outside the room. Jack’s beliefs that the audience has internalized at this point erode quickly, as he has to learn about mundane life activities such as variable sunlight and how stairs work.

You could count the major plot events in “Room” on one hand, but everything in between is conveyed by the incredible performances of its two leads. Larson perfectly communicates the fact that her character has been both strengthened and shaken to the core of her being by her captivity.

Tremblay, meanwhile, does a remarkable job considering how difficult it is for a child to carry most of a film. He nails Jack’s innocent naiveté.

Centering the action on Jack comes across as overly precious at first, but it was the right call. While I would have liked to see a little further exploration of his mother’s readjustment to her former life, that would have resulted in the most depressing movie ever made.

Instead, “Room” refuses to define itself by its bleakness like so many films. It’s still difficult to watch (in a good way), but it tastefully never shows the most depraved happenings.

Rather, “Room” strikes a near-perfect balance of dark and light, being emotionally heavy largely without cloying heartstring tugs. That it can be inspiring on some level without laying it on thick speaks to its success as much as it does the failures of so many before it.