Amma Marfo reflects on her most powerful film experience of the year.
Fact from awards season 2016: It only take 118 minutes to learn to become fiercely protective of Jacob Tremblay. Possibly less.
I know this because at the start of Lenny Abrahamson’s haunting but beautiful Room, I was cautiously intrigued by his five-year old Jack’s greeting of all the objects in the only world he knows and calls Room; by the end, when he says goodbye to each of them in the same manner, my heart overflowed. The minutes in between unfold gradually but jarringly; his relationship with his Ma, curiosity about the mysterious occasional presence of Old Nick, and the careful inquisitiveness he displays after his world quite literally bursts open are at once joyful and difficult to watch.
As someone who studies film, I was originally drawn to Room through the promise of the filmmaking itself—much of which takes place in an incredibly small space (less than 200 square feet). However, the story quickly transfixes in a way that swells beyond the claustrophobic feel of Room itself. The film is a beautiful meditation on the mother-son relationship, and often left me wondering what such a relationship will look like for me if I one day have children. How attached will we be? Who will their father be? Will my son be as kind but passionate as Jack? We see Jack through much of his fifth year on Earth, and I found myself wondering in the weeks after I saw the film, what’d he’d be like older. What will he be like as a man, as the result of all that transpired in the film?
In an odd way, seeing Tremblay and the tremendous fun he’s had during the red carpet season that Room rightfully earned, has been an odd indication of how I received the film. He is a charismatic and thoughtful nine-year-old now, sharing openly the fun he’s having with celebrities and excitement of seeing his costar Brie Larson earn such accolades for her work. He balances those peeks inside his public life with photos of his family and declarations of love for them. And while I’m a grown woman who knows Jack is a character, there’s a part of me that always thinks, “I’m glad he’s okay!” In 118 minutes, the youngest actor on the award circuit this season brought a familial, almost motherly protectiveness, out of me in a way that hasn’t previously existed. That is the power of Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, my most powerful film experience of the year.
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