I Remember When You Were a Book: ROOM

By: Emily Weber


If you’ve seen the trailer for the movie ROOM, don’t be mad that the escape scene ruined it for you. The escape is not what ROOM is really about.

ROOM is built around a few particular framing devices. First, it’s narrated by a five-year-old, (who in the movie is played by the adorable Jason Tremblay), which is a tricky constraint to pull off, but overall ROOM pulls it off well in both the movie and book. Plus, a good portion of the novel takes place in the tiny, tiny space that is the eponymous “room.” Tricky to do, but again ROOM does it well.

ROOM is the story of Ma and her five-year-old son, Jack. Ma was kidnapped at seventeen and imprisoned in a bunker by a man Jack calls “Old Nick.” Once you realize the horror of what’s going on in Ma and Jack’s world, the book just races on. What’s going to happen to them? And how does Ma do it? How does she keep it all together?

The scary, scary parts aside Ma & Jack’s story is just so sweet.When Emma Donoghue, the author, talks about the novel, she calls her protagonists “A Tribe of Two.” Ma and Jack’s joy and their hope are linked throughout the novel. But poor Ma’s fears are all her own as she protects her son Jack from what is really going on in ROOM.

In the book, the reader sees Ma as an angel through the eyes of her son. She teaches him things, makes sure he eats as well as he can, and encourages him to take part in physical exercise inside their 11×11 shed. Ma is a saint through and through.

And the complexity of what Ma is going through comes across in the book, sure, but this is one area where I think the movie really shines. Brie Larson deserved her Best Actress award. She brought ROOM and the troubling side of Ma’s story to life in a way that the first-person five-year-old narrator in the book could not do. While I read the book ROOM as Jack’s story about growing up, I saw the film as being Ma’s story of growing up.

Which is why the escape is not what ROOM is really about.

ROOM the film comes out on Netflix and DVD after March 1.

You can find ROOM the novel at your local neighborhood bookstore. Prairie Lights covers books into movies on their Instagram here: @prarielightsbook 


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