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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Room (Blu-ray)
Room (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // March 1, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted March 11, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I liked Frank, director Lenny Abrahamson's 2014 indie dramedy about a quirky experimental band, with Michael Fassbender in a giant papier mache head as the lead singer with serious mental health issues. After my white Portland friends sang its praises, I dismissed it as yet another one of those hipster indies I dub "Whining Caucasian Movies", but Frank's subversive, brutally honest, and genre-bending nature instantly won me over when I finally decided to give it a shot. That being said, nothing in that film could have prepared me for the emotional and visceral gut punch that is Room, Abrahamson's follow-up to Frank.

Based on a best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue, who also adapted her own material for the screen, Room is about Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a loving, energetic, and imaginative 5-year-old boy who spent his entire life imprisoned in a ten-feet-by-ten-feet room with her mother (Brie Larson). The mother is named only as Ma, which is just one of the many admirable examples of the film's dedication to telling this equally traumatizing and life-affirming story strictly from Jack's point-of-view.

In order to raise Jack in this horrific environment with any semblance of normalcy, Ma makes him believe that the room is the only place that exists in the world, and that all the people and places he sees on TV are in a different galaxy. As a stay at home dad who constantly struggles to keep a toddler stimulated, nourished, and motivated with all of the indoor space, toys, tech, parks at my fingertips, I felt an intense sadness as well as respect for Ma's dedication to raise a child in such an impossibly harsh condition.

Jack's mind is full of made-up worlds inhabited by his imaginary pets, concocted as a means of escaping the harshness of his reality, which gradually begins to reveal itself through Jack's experiences with the room. I won't reveal how Ma and Jack ended up there, or the sacrifices Ma has to make on a daily basis in order to keep Jack safe, because in order to truly appreciate the genius of Abrahamson's intensely focused visual approach is to let the way he reveals vital story elements from Jack's perspective captivate you with as little information as possible.

All of the information we get about Ma and Jack's predicament builds up to one of the most pulse-pounding, nail-biting, any other review buzzword cliché generating sequences I've seen in a long time. I will try my hardest not to spoil that scene, as well as what happens during its aftermath. This is a very hard thing to do, since not only do the trailers reveal the outcome of this vital plot point, even reading the logline on the IMDB page will spoil it. Not to mention the fact that the movie's been out for a while, and even the clips from The Academy Awards ruined many of its important plot points.

But as an optimist, I still hang on to the faint hope that my review will be the only information you seek out before buying this Blu-ray. All I can say is that even though the thriller elements are laid to rest about halfway through Room, there's still a tremendously engaging emotional journey ahead, where Abrahamson smartly avoids every trap for conventional melodramatics the basic story elements lay out for him.

The performances from everyone involved are extraordinary, especially for a story that's ripe for possible overacting and hysterical dramatics. After Short Term 12 and Room, Brie Larson shows that she's one of the most talented and versatile actresses of her generation, and fully deserved her Best Actress win. The entire emotional weight of Room was hoisted on the tiny shoulders of 8-year-old Jacob Tremblay, and he carries it with an exceptional display of natural empathy and energy. I was actually hoping for him to end up as the youngest Best Actor winner in The Academy's history.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

The two distinct story sections of Room have different color palettes and lighting. While doing my best to not spoil anything, I can safely say that the way Abrahamson's dedication to gradually brighten and open up the visual style of the film, perfectly in synch with Jack's POV, is beautifully and loyally transferred in this gorgeous 1080p presentation. There isn't any video noise, the darker scenes have perfect contrast and black levels, while the later scenes capture the natural lighting very well.

Audio:

The DTS-HD 5.1 track is essential for getting inside Jack's mind. For a slightly low budget drama, Room sports an impressively dynamic sound mix, where all of the channels get us into Jack's unique perspective of the world. I especially appreciated the all-encompassing mix of Jack's voice-over. This is one drama that really benefits from a view on a powerful surround system.

Extras:

Commentary by Director Lenny Abrahamson, Cinematographer Danny Cohen, Editor Nathan Nugent, and Production Designer Ethan Tobman: This insightful and energetic commentary is a godsend for fans of Room, as the crew not only get into the technical details of the production, but do a great job discussing the themes of the film.

Making Room: A fairly comprehensive featurette, at least as comprehensive as you can get in 12 minutes. I'd have liked to have seen more about how Abrahamson got that impressive performance out of Tremblay, but this will do for now.

11x11: A ten-minute featurette about the production design of the titular location.

Recreating Room: A brief clip about the way the room set was built and moved.

We also get some Trailers.

Final Thoughts:

In my opinion, Room was clearly the best film of 2015, and I still stand by my assessment. It's a profoundly moving and effective story that reminds us why we love movies, and why we love to be moved by stories, regardless of the medium through which they're communicated. The quality of the film, as well as the gorgeous Blu-ray transfer, turns Room into one of the must-buy home video releases of 2016.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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