No room to breathe.
Powerful and traumatic, the Oscar-winning Room – based on the best-selling novel which, itself, was forged on a true story – is a tough watch.Although arguably almost as effective in its storytelling, indie filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson’s film adaptation of Room (adapted by the book’s own writer, Emma Donogue, who forges a solid although incomplete vision of the original tale) barely tries to hold back on the sizeable revelation of the book – itself made much easier to conceal due to the fact that it was written from the perspective of its five year old protagonist – and instead fairly quickly reveals the unspeakable horrors levelled at its two lead characters who’ve been held in captivity for years. With nothing but the titular ‘room’ to regard as the whole world, Jack has been brought up as best as possible by his mother but struggles to accommodate elements of the real world (which is basically everything in the room) and those he sees on TV. Now old enough for his mother to tell him the truth, Jack has to do a lot of growing up overnight if the two of them ever hope to escape.Whilst the Oscar-winning Brie Larson pulls out all of the stops to convince as the tortured mother, it’s somewhat surprising that the young 8 year old kid, Jacob Tremblay, who plays the boy Jack, didn’t even get a nomination. Although more sidelined than his character was in the book, Tremblay still provides the emotional core of the piece, driving home the impact of much of the horror on offer, and perfectly capturing the fearful innocence and atypical imagination of a child in these circumstances. It’s interesting to wonder just how old he would have had to be to receive Oscar recognition. Despite these more political controversies, and the inherent abbreviations (which undermine some important side elements, like the screaming game) made to abridge the full novel into a more condensed 2 hour feature, Room remains a tough but compelling must-see tale of survival and the unbreakable bond between a mother and child, and comes recommended.
Picture QualityNever likely to be regarded as painting a pretty picture in any way, shape or form, Studiocanal’s UK Region B-locked release of Room nevertheless does a solid job with the gritty material.
Although digitally captured in 6K no less, you wouldn’t know for looking at it, with the 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen, popping with clarity beyond the four walls of its prison ‘room’ but, within said walls, looking decidedly gritty and grimy. Detail fluctuates between these two distinctions, with the scenes of captivity remaining intentionally bleak, and stylistically muted, with limited lighting, commensurate noise, limited shadow detail and other noticeable artefacts, whilst the shots beyond those four walls are brimming with all the elements that would qualify it for near-reference perfection. It’s a dichotomy, but as aforementioned seemingly stylistically derived, and certainly does not take away from the proceedings, indeed arguably emphasising the horrors of the captivity even at the expense of more traditionally impressive video.
Sound QualityThe DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 accompaniment is more conventionally stable than the video, although again limited by the material.
Whilst the disc defaults to its inferior 2-channel track, even the six-speaker big brother is inherently front-dominated, with limited effects coverage across the array inherent to the restrictions of the ‘room’ within which much of the proceedings take place. Dialogue remains firmly prioritised above the rest of the elements, from the whispers to the cries; the shouts to the screams, also frontally dominated but understandably so, whilst the effects on offer create a claustrophobic atmosphere of limited, muted noises, sparked to life by more distinct elements that pepper the feature – like a screeching remote controlled car. The score, strangely generic on the one hand but often perfectly suited to the emotional rollercoaster that the narrative takes you on, provides the biggest surround fuel, whilst bass remains understandably limited. It’s a solid effort and, whilst it was never likely to achieve demo excellence given the inherent restrictions, it does the best it can with the material.
ExtrasA decent enough selection of extra features round off the disc, headlined by a strong Audio Commentary from the filmmakers, with the Director, Editor, Cinematographer and Production Designer on hand to discuss their work, support comes from a trio of lightly fluffy Featurette-based offerings – 11x11; Making Room; and Cast & Crew, which at least provide a wealth of interview snippets from those behind and in front of the camera to discuss the production. The disc also features a number of Preview Trailers which play on startup.
Blu-ray VerdictRoom remains a tough, compelling watch.
This Region B-locked Blu-ray release does a solid job with the oftentimes murky material, providing decent enough video and audio, considering the inherent limitations, as well as a strong selection of extra features, all of which leaves this a recommended rental and a worthy purchase.
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