Room Without a View

A look at the film ‘Room’ directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.

It’s a sad indictment of the human race that we are seeing more and more cases being reported where some creep has been found to be keeping a person, usually a woman (or multiple women in extreme cases), against their will and then using them for sexual gratification.

I can remember reading Emma Donoghue’s original novel, a fictional tome, and feeling myself shudder at the descriptions therein as the awful case of Elisabeth Fritzl was still making the very occasional appearance in the world news.

The author states that no single case inspired her book. I believe her. It seems to contain elements of each of the high profile cases, from the isolation, the involvement of children, all the way up to the anonymity of the captor.

And it’s that anonymity that makes us the viewer feel a little vulnerable and confused when viewing the film, and allows us to empathise with the characters more. We the viewer are familiar with being armed with more information than the regular film character; we usually get to see the guy with the axe hiding around the corner shortly before he chops up another unsuspecting teenager, or we get to see the creepy shadow move along the hallway foreshadowing a cheap, shitty jump scare. But to be denied this knowledge and to ride in the same boat the people inside the film are is a wise move.

If you’ve read the book, don’t be put off watching the film. If you’ve not read the book, ‘still’ do not be put off watching the film. Whether you intend to watch the film or not, giving the book a go is a good idea. It’s powerful and intelligent stuff. Fiction, but eerily becoming more like a true crime story with each new real case that comes to light.

Not everything in the book made it to the screen, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Those familiar with the source text will have a bit of neck-ache as they nod knowingly for two-hours to all the familiar dialogue and scenes. But they’ll smile at the thoughtfully constructed sets and the sheer joy of seeing such a gripping novel become a beautiful film.

Those unfamiliar with Donoghue’s scribblings will not feel left out. For it was Donoghue herself who wrote the screenplay adaptation and so we can all trust we are seeing what the creator wanted us to see rather than some third-parties idea of it.

Donoghue has cleverly made the film faithful yet just different enough to make it worth your while investing time in both formats of the story. And this leads to my biggest gripe with the film version. You see, the book is told from the child’s perspective; he takes us on the journey of discovery and describes the things he thinks, sees and does. This approach is perfect for the book.

In the film, however, it means that to fill us in on the little bits we couldn’t otherwise know, we have narration delivered by the boy and this feels forced and clumsy. I accept that it would be hard to do it right without having the actors perform excruciating and awkward expositional scenes, but the narration method is almost as poor a choice as a Star Wars style text scroll would have been.

Still, once all is said and done, you still get a film that is well written, impeccably performed, thoughtfully directed and produced to an exceptionally high standard. The soundtrack didn’t stand out as being an exceptional body of work in its own right, but served the film nicely to create atmosphere where needed without being intrusive.

It’s not a film for everyone. Nothing explodes, no spaceships crash into the White House and at no point is there a car chase. One can only pray to the powers-that-be in the film industry that more films like this one are made as they are desperately needed…

Just without the clumsy narration… Please.

A reason why you should watch it: To see an insightful and realistic portrayal of a kidnap victim and her struggle to cope with her capture and re-assimilation into normal life.

A reason why you shouldn’t watch it: You’re looking for a kidnapping how-to guide. This film picks up five years (or so) into the ordeal so you’ll only get to see how badly it will go for you if you try it… Seriously, just don’t.

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