A film of two halves, both structurally and in terms of quality. The film is a mostly well-handled exploration of a most horrific situation; Ma (Brie Larson) raises her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), conceived and born in the 10 foot by 10 foot space that they both call Room. Jack knows nothing of the outside world but when their captor, known only as Old Nick, begins to take an interest in Jack, Ma decides that the time has come to get out for good.
It’s a near hopeless situation that Jack and Ma find themselves in but Ma’s love for Jack keeps her going, even if his youthful innocence and exuberance sometimes leaves her exhausted. The escape is a brilliantly tense sequence that leads to an overwhelming emotional release when Jack gets his first glimpse of the outside world; director Lenny Abrahamson beautifully captures the look of shock and wonder Jacob Tremblay’s face.
It’s a high point that the film never comes close to matching, now matter how desperately it wants to. There’s a lot of ground that the filmmakers want to get through, but simply not enough time to approach it all with the same delicacy as the opening. It’s a stretch chock full of cathartic emotional payoffs without the measured build up to make those moments work; like a drummer repeatedly crashing a cymbal without the drum roll. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s superlative Like Father, Like Son spends its entire run time exploring its situation and builds to a conclusion and an overwhelming emotional release.
This too means that the film raises certain interesting aspects, such as Jack’s plasticity and the decision taken by Robert (William H. Macy), but they are glossed over and never properly dealt with. The film’s perspective never properly works either; it’s mostly told from Jack’s perspective but there are moments where it very much switches to a more objective perspective. One moment where Abrahamson abruptly reveals Old Nick’s face, before Jack has seen his face, is particularly jarring. Either ditch the sole perspective entirely or commit to it fully. A special shout out for Tom McCamus who seems to have been left out of conversations, despite giving a great supporting performance as Leo.
There’s plenty to recommend in Room; the performances alone make it worth seeing. It just doesn’t feel as honest as it should be.