Room is a very well-made movie with a story that seems like a hard sell. It even gets curiously indirect about the horrors of the circumstance that exists for full the first half of the movie: a young woman has been held captive in a garden shed for seven years, five of which have included Jack, the son that resulted from her captor.
Rape. That's what this is, and this is a woman who has experienced so much of it, it's just a routine part of her horribly confined existence. We never see this explicitly, and I'm not saying we need to. But director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) could have done more to drive home how this woman was experiencing some of the worst horrors imaginable. Instead, the word "rape" is never used in the entire film, and the fact is obscured by focusing on the perspective of the little boy.
And, to be fair, the young mother, Joy (how pointedly ironic was that choice of name, I wonder?) has been pointedly deliberate about that. When her captor comes for regular nightly visits, she keeps Jack, the boy who just turned five, in a small bed she made for him the wardrobe, with the doors closed. He is presumed to be asleep while his mom is fucked by her captor. We spend some brief time inside the wardrobe with Jack, just hearing subtle heavy breathing and bedspring noises. Jack doesn't really know what's going on. This has been going on for so many years that Joy and her captor have a strangely comfortable rapport. She almost never regards him with fear, only resignation.
Finally, figuring out that Jack is old enough to be told some truths about the world outside "Room" as they both continuously refer to it, Joy figures out a way to use Jack as a means for escape. She convinces her captor he's gotten sick and died (honestly, the captor seems unrealistically quickly convinced of this) and rolls him up in a rug, and that's how he gets outside the room, which otherwise has a security code to the door.
Thus, the second half of Room is entirely different, detailing how both Joy and Jack adapt to freedom. And their perspectives are wildly different, as Joy has always known what she was missing, but Jack never has. His only window to the outside world is an old TV with terrible reception. He understands a lot of stuff to be magic. He looks much like a littler girl due to his particularly long hair, which Joy convinced him was his source of strength, like the Biblical Sampson.
And, to be sure, this is very compelling stuff -- the second half of Room is far more interesting than the first. Brie Larson is excellent as Joy, and Jacob Tremblay is a revelation as five-year-old Jack. It's always a bit of a crapshoot with actors under the age of ten, and there's no way of knowing how much of an excellent performance is due to talent on the part of the child actor or on the part of the director. Perhaps it's a mixture of both. But if there's any reason to see Room, it is this couple of actors.
We also get Joan Allen and William H. Macy as Joy's parents, and they are as good as you can expect, but with far less meaty parts. They're still supporting players to this mother and son; they are the focus of all those around them.
Joy and Jack go in different directions in the wake of freedom: Joy finds herself surprisingly prone to depression, but Jack, while mystified at first and often wanting to go back to Room, ultimately finds himself in a perpetual state of increasingly joyous discovery. It's that little boy's story, as well as the boy actor's performance, that really makes Room a story of interest. The impetus for it is perhaps unnecessarily harrowing (and curiously gleaned over), but you can't always expect perfection. Sometimes you can settle for something that merely satisfies a craving for something different.