One of the many joys of living in the North Wexford hill country are the film screenings which take place in the Tinahely Court House Arts Centre just over the border in South Wicklow. This year they are taking place once a month. In October a large crowd enjoyed “The Lady in the Van.” Earlier this month a smaller- but equally enthusiastic- group of us gathered to see “The Room” ( 2015) ( not to be confused with the 2003 cult film of the same title)- based a novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue.
“The Room” is not a great film. It won’t figure on any list of must see movies. But it is a both disturbing and thought provoking production, which raises philosophical issues of some interest.
The plot concerns a young women Joy Larson, very well played by Brie Larson, who has been kidnapped by a “Old Nick” a sexual abuser and held captive for more than five years in an outhouse in his “yard” ( as the Americans would say .) During this time she has been made pregnant and given birth to a son Jack, and the film begins with the two of them celebrating his fifth birthday. Old Nick then tells Joy that he has lost his job, and can no longer afford their supplies, she realises that this is the moment when they must escape.
To do this though she has to convince her son that there IS another world to escape to as he knows no other reality than the room in which they are imprisoned. The matter is complicated by the fact that the one luxury their captor has allowed them is a television. It transpires that sometime before the opening of the film that Joy had told her Jack that what he sees on the screen is not real, and that the people he “sees” there are “just plastic.” Now she has to persuade him that the “just plastic” does indeed depict a real world beyond the confines of the room which he has no means of imagining.
Ultimately the pair do escape…but then ( of course ) they face the further difficulties of adjusting to the realities of life in the outer world. Once more television plays a role. The media of a slice of the action of their story, and Joy is made the subject of a television interview…in which the interviewer questions the mother as to why- as she could have- she did not arrange for Jack be removed from his prison, in such a way as not to implicate Old Nick so that he can enjoy a normal childhood outside “the room.” In other words has she behaved selfishly? The question – which puts its finger on the flaw in the movies plot- completely throws her, and she attempts suicide.
While the penultimate scene attempts to frame the story within the joys of the “American way” with a sloppy scene in a Hamburger joint, this is a powerful and worrying film. Very well worth watching.