Last night I had the privilege of watching the film adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel ‘Room’. This small budget, limited release indie film was never supposed to garner much attention, but the critics and film industry award season have proven otherwise. From the moment I first saw the trailer to this film, I knew it was going to be something special, but could never have imagined the wide acclaim this film has recently received.
‘Room’ transports its viewers to a story of survival for a mother who had been abducted at a young age, and her five year old son – a child conceived by rape. Trapped in their “home” (which is actually a garden shed) we see them live life between the four walls of their confinement. This story draws us into their “life” in the “Room” (as they refer to it), and follows them through a successful escape and integration back into the real world.
What I was shocked to discover was the examination of one of the most controversial topics our society wrestles with. A topic that is also not widely portrayed, or awarded, within Hollywood. ‘Room’ beautifully, honestly, and delicately examines the harsh reality of a women victimized by rape, and the child conceived by said rape. Throughout the film we see the unconditional love of a mother for her son; the anger of a grandfather who cannot look past her daughter’s maltreatment and refuses to accept his grandson as anything other than the product of rape; the joy of a grandmother in experiencing life with her grandchild; and the reality of a five year old boy making his way through this great big world.
Regardless of whether the author originally intended to spark discussion regarding this topic of rape and the consequences of a child conceived by it; it is impossible to overlook its ramifications within this story.
It is ironic that little Jack thinks the world is the size of his garden shed house. It is the place he was born in and the only thing he has ever known. It is where he feels safe, where he is loved, where he eats and plays and sleeps, where all of his memories and learning has taken place thus far in his short lifespan. His idea of the world is shattered when he steps foot outside of the shed and he begins to see things for what they really are – in all of their beauty and ugliness. Although he realizes he will never be able to go back to the comfort of “Room”, he learns to adapt in the real world. He narrates his discovery in realizing that the real world is full of two conflicting realities in which we could never imagine anything so beautiful and yet so terrifying and dangerous all at the same time.
How true is this idea for the life of a child conceived by rape. We should be horrified that anyone would have to begin life in that way, but like the grandfather in this story, we also can’t seem to look past the horrifying four walls that four letter word shoves us into. No matter how unfair or humiliating it may be to live with the fact that someone was created through such a horrible act of violence, we cannot overlook that fact that a human was still created nonetheless. If you take little Jack out of the film, you are left with a very depressing story that may not come with the happily ever after ending we enjoy.
In the film, Jack begins to describe his discoveries of this conundrum. For instance, he sees leaves both green and brown. One bursting with life, the other wilting away at its very end. He questions their existence with a common “Why?”, and his mother begins to explain to him that it is just the way things are. New life and death often on the same tree, reflecting the full picture of life here on earth. In one of the most beautiful moments of the film, little Jack shares his new knowledge:
“I’ve been in the world 37 hours. I’ve seen pancakes, and a stairs, and birds, and windows, and hundreds of cars. And clouds, and police, and doctors, and grandma and grandpa…I’ve seen persons with different faces, and bigness, and smells, talking all together…There’s doors and…more doors. And behind all the doors, there’s another inside, and another outside. And things happen, happen, HAPPENING. It never stops. Plus the world’s always changing brightness, and hotness. And there’s invisible germs floating everywhere…”
In another scene, Jack describes that the real world he now lives in can be quite scary, but he knows not to be afraid because he has his mom, and what he calls his “strong”. This strong saves him and his mom on a couple of occasions, and often helps them both overcome some of the major obstacles in the adjustment back to the real world.
You see, just as the world is bigger than Room, so too is a human life bigger than the stamp of rape in which it was conceived. Although it may be terrifying to step out from within its walls, it is the healthiest option and brings forth a greater quality of life in which a strong can save the world – or can save the world of one life. A strong that could have easily been squelched before it ever took its first breath in the world.
If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. It does have an “R” rating for language which surprised me a bit as I am pretty sure I have seen some PG-13 films with more language than this film, making me wonder if it just barely slipped into the R category. Films like this need to be made, need to be seen, and need to be shared. It is a raw, and real look at a topic not widely discussed.
We need to advocate for these precious lives effected by this horrendous act. We need to be their shoulders to cry on, their ears to listen to, their safety net of comfort, and their trust when depression sinks in. We need to be their world when all they can see in the moment is a room. Like Jack and his mom, we need to help them say good-bye to the things of the past, and look with anticipation and courage to the unknown of the future, in all of its glorious shades.