You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m going on about. Today’s *Hollywood Hardback* review is on Room* by Emma Donoghue. Room is a 2010 thriller-novel which recently came to life on the big screen in October 2015. I’ll respectfully not deprive you of the breathtaking experience involved in reading the book/watching the film, so I’ll use restraint and only give away plot details that would be available to you on the back of the book. The novel is aptly named in that the story takes place in a room. Five-year-old Jack lives with his Ma in a heavily insulated, soundproof garden shed, where Ma has been held in captivity for seven years. Because Jack was born within Room, he doesn’t know anything outside of it. Ma has chosen to shelter him from the realities of the external world on account of his young age and assumed inability to process. As such, Jack thinks that the only things that exist are he and his Ma, the objects within Room (including a barely functioning TV), and a mysterious male named “Old Nick”. Old Nick is Ma’s kidnapper who visits the shed on a nightly basis to bring basic amenities and wreak havoc on Ma.
Obviously, this is not great. Ma, played by Brie Larson in the movie, was nineteen at the time of her abduction, and Jack is her only redemption. But her son won’t be a child forever; she’ll have to figure out the necessary next steps that ensure her and Jack’s physical safety as well as Jack’s psychological wellbeing…
I offered my alcoholic rendition of Room in the first paragraph to show you all the manner in which Room is written. The story is entirely told from Jack’s perspective, which makes the book incredibly unique. This is not a regurgitation of your typical kidnapping; while readers can see the pain that Ma is in, they’re shown through the lens of an innocent child. Their horrific experience of being enclosed within such a small space with such limited means is rendered lighthearted and even exciting at times because Jack is naïve to what he’s missing out on. He loves running track around Rug just like my little guy likes hiding under Tablecloth. He creates his friend Egg Snake out of used egg shells just like my little guy creates Coaster. Of note, when my guy finds out what Goose Island is, he’s in for a real treat.
Furthermore, readers gain insight into Ma’s frustration through Jack, thus the novel does not pretend that everything is hunky-dory. These insights may be masked by Jack’s point of view, but they are no less painfully heart-wrenching. Readers also get an idea of the kind of person that Ma is and the beliefs that she holds, like when my little guy notices his Ma condemning prohibitive drinking laws. I scoped out a solid text example of this kind of interplay: when Ma answers Jack’s questions about Old Nick directly for the first time. She gently explains that he stole her. Jack thinks to himself, “I’m trying to understand. Swiper no swiping. But I never heard of swiping people” (Donoghue, 93). Precious, but also depressing because Ma is like hiiiii, I’m pouring my heart out over here and you’re making an analogy to a fictional child with a magical backpack named Dora. Dick.
As aforementioned, I absolutely loved the perspective that Donoghue provided. It gave the kidnapper the inattention he deserved and presented a life-affirming message --that people can overcome life’s setbacks --without being too cheesy or overwrought. I was concerned that this perspective would be lost in the film adaptation. How would the director effectively show us the mind of a child? Fortunately, Donoghue wrote the screenplay as well and she’d be damned before she let her creativity fall through the cracks. As amazing as Brie Larson was, I was completely shocked at how impressive Jacob Tremblay’s performance was as Jack. Tremblay is NINE. YEARS. OLD. and I thought I was witnessing Oscar-worthy material. He was everything I thought Jack would be and more. Now I’m going to have to check out his acting in The Smurfs 2 and Santa’s Little Ferrets (wut). Overall, the movie was true to both the novel’s voice and the novel’s content. The film had only minor tweaks towards the end—ones that I consider inconsequential.
My last reservation, pertinent to the book and the movie, was that I thought I’d potentially be annoyed by the little kid voice. I’m a cold hearted bitch who’s seriously planning on using a surrogate if I ever want children, so a kid narrating sounded like a big red flag. To my surprise, his narration was actually quite endearing and amusing. Jack is certainly childlike but he is also smart and inquisitive despite his stunted surroundings. It helps that he likes Alice in Wonderland, one of the few books in Room.
I give the novel and the movie five out of five camel humps, and it seems like most critics agree. While I am obviously a more trustworthy source than Rotten Tomatoes, for the record, the movie garnered a 97% critic rating and a 94% user rating. I was so eager to figure out what came next that I read the entire book in less than 33 hours, similar to how I felt about Brain on Fire. Now, I can’t wait to read more of Emma Donoghue—a charming redheaded Irish novelist who wears little funny knitted caps.
*Donoghue, Emma. Room. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Print.