The House Jack Built / by Frixos Masouras

Boycotts, pledges of certain Oscar glory for di Caprio and the countdown to the Oscars has truly begun. One understands that Oscar-buzz is where its at right now on the interwebz. Is di Caprio winning for sure? Will the Academy throw us a curve-ball and brand Mad Max as the Best Film (licking my lips just thinking about it). So many questions. And then there's the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Ask anyone. ANYONE. They will say the same thing. "It's Brie's". Well, I had to see where all this is coming from. And so, I watched the Room.

This is a story of a mother and her son, who were held captive in a room for 7 years (Jack was in there for 5, seeing how he was born into the room) and what happens when they finally break out into the real world. The dynamics at play here are spine-shattering, and that's coming from someone who is not a parent. I could barely imagine what a parent would go through watching this film. The fears involved in raising a child are beyond me at this point (and quite frankly, terrifying). The narrative is purposely understated, fed to you by Lenny Abrahamson's somber lens in the most matter-of-fact tone. The secret here is that Emma Donoghue wrote it, and here lies one of the greatest strengths of this film. The author of the original book delivered a script that nails you to your seat over a simple dialogue regarding a mouse, or a fart. Needless to say, the early minutes of the film are terrifying. Yet... not. The reason for that is even though Jack and Joy are captives in that room, Joy NEVER let's Jack in on that fact. On the contrary, she created an entire world just for the two of them within those four walls. Everything outside of their confines was literally outer space. 

Believe it or not, the real drama commences once they are outside. A coming-of-age tale like no other, told from the perspective of a perfect child. And every child is perfect (and no child is perfect!). Once Joy has to face the world, she begins to comprehend what has truly transpired during those 7 years. Jack? Jack is awesome, learning new things, seeing the world with new eyes. His mother? A warped, torn mess. Brie Larson spends the first half of the film orchestrating the entire life of her son up to that point. She had everything under control, akin to managing to smile even though you are being eaten by sharks! Confined in a room for 5 years with her child yet she manages to play the lioness to her cub. Tough when the situation called for it, tender whenever she had to. Her conviction is worn on her face, which is gloriously captured without a hint of make-up, to an effect so strong that I was taken aback when later on in the film she is presented with make-up. A truly remarkable transformation. 

Once she steps out of that door however, she is met with questions and the glares of the people around her. Even her own father could not look at his grandson, because he was clearly the product of rape (and according to Bob, not worthy to even look at... humans). She is pulled in a million directions at once, because for the first time in 5 years she had to juggle two things at once. Being human and being a mother. This is where the film hits the hardest as Joy has to come to terms with life and questions to her own self. Could she have done something differently? Perhaps free Jack and let her self stay in the room forever? Was she a good mother?

These are questions that would most certainly pop into the viewers head as they step outside that room for the first time with Joy and Jack. Brie Larson delivers the most human... human! A beacon of might in a certain light. A bitter, unstable girl in another. Abrahamson's lens lingers on her hands and her face in so many shots that you can't help but be mesmerised by Larson's performance (if she faltered for one second, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. Hint: She didn't!).

Do I believe that Brie Larson has the Academy Award in the bag already? I can't say that for certain. But I can assure you that this is most definitely an Oscar-worthy performance, if I've ever seen one, from an actress who's made it a habit to deliver incredibly powerful human performances. Down-to-earth, understated, flawed, emotional human performances. And yes, she has done comedy as well, therefore she has the range to boot. 

But spare a thought here, because here lies the greatest snub of this year's Oscars. How in Zeus' butthole is Jacob Tremblay not nominated for his Supporting Role.  A performance so three-dimensional that I spent the first 30 minutes of the film thinking that Jack was a girl and that Joy hid that fact from her captor in order to avoid any predatory thoughts he might have had about her (him). I am not alone in this, and the gender ambiguity here is so careful and precise. i was left battling with my own thoughts about what Jack was. Ultimately though (a boy, of course) Jack was a child.  Tremblay prances around the film with the ease of a seasoned veteran, chewing up the scenery and playing off Brie Larson to perfection. Her transformation and his resilience are the center pieces of this film.

By the time the film comes to an end, Jack wishes to see the room one more time. To bid it goodbye. Right there. The question whether Joy was a good mother is answered in a simple, beautiful scene just before the credits roll. Her motherhood was so crushingly absolute that her son wished to bid the room farewell. He was so carefully sheltered that he never felt like a captive. She made sure of that. The perfect child was innocently waving goodbye to the world it was born in, while the mother was too scared to even walk through the door. But that's OK, because he had her back, and she had his. 

An immensely impactful story, delivered with strong confidence and technique.   

- Frixos Masouras 2016