MAMI Mumbai Film Festival Review: 'Room' by Aneesh Raikundalia

Today India's premiere film festival; the 17th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, opened to a great frenzy and fervor. The excitement was palpable in the air, as people from different walks of life with the fascination for cinema and the hunger to see India's cinema to grow, converged to watch a multitude of films from around India and around the world; of great prestige.

Not only was it a push and shove match to get the tickets to what you desperately want to watch (thank god for my smarts in online booking) but there was also chaotic disappointment among most as they realized that for the sake of one great film, you're missing another two-three great choices. Huge sacrifices.

Thankfully that one such film was Room because now this is a film festival.

Lenny Abrahamson's Room is one such enticingly brilliant film that completes a film festival. It's a much lauded indie darling, is held in the palms of a talented breakthrough star and has a topic that can wonderfully keep you engaged and moved right through the end.

Anyone that has seen the film can tell you; Room could easily have been any two different but brilliantly constructed films. The material adapted from is endless, simply because it reflects on life and as such seeks to reflect on the humanity of its characters.

Room is the story of a young mother and her son. Joy (Brie Larson) and her five year old son Jack are living in just one room, unbeknownst to the young Jack who has lived all his life in here; they are captive, Joy has been for seven years.

The outside world in the eyes of innocent Jake (he can see the sky from a well placed sky light), is a mystery. A TV box projects a falsehood that is simply there for his entertainment. His mother has built this imagination of what reality is. Then there's a man, a man who brings them all that they need to survive in return for something harrowing with the mother.

Just like that, the intriguing premise captures you.

Questions seem to pop up; Why are they here? Who is the man? Why does Joy lie about the real world? Most importantly how did they get here?

The film could have simply been engaging on the basis of its initial set up. Watching the harrowed and troubled mother struggle with a child so simply conditioned to a living unlike anything else, to see secrets slowly unravel and take dramatic hold on you. The Room, I mean; the room they live in, could have sufficed.

But there's more.

Slowly and surely characters build; their relations with one another come to light. Joy's plight and in turn her behavior, her parenting are reflected upon and at times we even judge. Her trauma forces her to push both characters so far into mortal danger.

An escape sequence regarding Jack and his father keeps the audience on the edge and like any good moviegoer the musical strings of hope kick in, you know now everything will be great as Mother and Son are reunited in the outside world.

Then a question pops up; how quickly did this film end?

Well, it's just the beginning. Like I said, could have been a two part.

Room then follows the dual journeys of these two people adjusting to a world that had forgotten them, or in this case; never even knew existed. For Joy, a seven year return brings terrifying changes and the ability to move on which puts into question her conviction to continue forward as the wonderful mother she has tried to be.

For Jack, it mean trying to open up; to accept a completely new reality, it makes it both easier and just as difficult that he is such a young impressionable child.

There is where the script hits it on the head; its simplicity. There's not much stirring drama, not a lot of the invasion of the outside world. Like the premise in itself, the drama is contained within the mindsets of the two characters and that builds to a slow crescendo.

Every aspect of the feature is top notch.

The camera work is smart, it grows like the narrative towards a widening view that once we return to the titular room; the world is magically open for mother and son. The editing crisp; no moments feel unnecessary and everything just touches upon a sense of life moving with a fervor for these entrapped characters. A great juxtaposition. The score just strikes the right chords.


It's the performances that are the heart. Brie Larson, an actor who has just blossomed with each role is a shining beacon in the feature. She reaches out with each of the emotional complexities that Joy faces, channeling both a horror that she has suffered and a side of her she has come to grow into; both nurturing and confused. No wonder she's the current front runner for Best Actress at the Oscars.

She is aptly supported by her young leading boy; Jacob Trembley. The child actor throws himself into the vulnerability of the narrative, commanding a great screen presence and hitting at the core with wonderfully expressed emotions and comic timing.

They trap you in their grip and never let go. No wonder this one deserved a huge cheer and a definite standing applause.

If you happen to catch this on release, it's highly recommended and it's going to be a definite powerhouse at next year's Academy Awards.