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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Room

"Creed" is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

The idea of woman and a child locked in a garden shed and held at the whim of a sociopath who uses the woman like his own personal sex toy is a shocking and disturbing one. It’s the fodder of countless true crime stories and suspense thrillers. The logistics of the situation are unbearable to think about and it’s easy to exploit those elements while telling the story.

What makes “Room” so amazing is that it doesn’t take an easy path. Rather, it focuses on the human element. The movie is told through the eyes of five year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who was born two years into the captivity of his mother Joy (Brie Larson). Jack knows nothing of the outside world, short of what he sees on the television. The only real things in his life are what are in the shed, which he calls “room,” his mother, and Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), who comes to visit his mother in the evening while Jack hides in the wardrobe.



Child actors have a long history of being too precocious and/or just plain too annoying. This is not the case for young Tremblay, who turns in an impressively nuanced performance for a young man his age (Jack is 5, but Tremblay was around 7 or 8 while filming “Room”). Joy tries to give him as much of a normal childhood as she possibly can, and emotionally, Jack is in good shape. In spite of his confinement, during his time with his mother he experiences happiness, sadness, anger, and fear—all of the things a growing boy needs to turn out normal and healthy.

Where things take a turn for Jack is in his mental development. Due to having no interaction with anyone besides his mother, he is a bit off. The movie opens with Jack getting up and greeting the various objects in the room—sink, toilet, table, etc.—as if they were his friends. Further, in order to protect Jack, Joy made up stories about the outside world and what is real and what isn’t. As a result, Jack has no concept of anything that he cannot physically see or touch. For him, unless it is there in front of him, it doesn’t exist in reality.

He’s a fascinating psychological portrait. It goes to show the malleability of the young, developing mind, and how much those minds really are like clay. They can be sculpted into any shape and filled with anything that someone wants to put into them. How a mind is shaped determines how a young person sees the world, possibly for the rest of their life. The quality of their worldview depends a lot on their mind’s influences, as demonstrated by Jack, and even by Old Nick and Joy. Anyone who has read a true crime book or watched a show knows that a lot of sociopaths were bred that way from childhood due to harsh and/or neglectful treatment. Old Nick’s background is never explored, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a traumatic childhood was uncovered. In a powerful, emotional scene between Joy and her mother (Joan Allen) later in the movie, Joy throws it at her mother that perhaps if her mother didn’t tell her to be so nice all the time, she never would have gotten into Nick’s van and been kidnapped in the first place. It’s a hard-hitting statement that brings the theme of a mother’s influence over her child full circle.

The Oscars are tonight as I write this, and Brie Larson is the odds on favorite to win (she did win!). She’s my pick as well. By now it’s a cliché to refer to her performance in “Room” as the “heart and soul” of the movie, but sometimes clichés exist for a reason--because they are so universally true. Buy it on Blu-Ray: Room [Blu-ray + Digital HD].



Also New This Week

Creed

Former heavyweight boxing champion and Philadelphia restaurateur Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) takes on the “Mickey” role this time around in “Creed.” The ambitious son of his late friend Apollo Creed, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), is looking for a shot at the title and he needs somebody to train him. Balboa reluctantly accepts, which is good since we wouldn’t have a movie if he didn’t.

Once “Creed” gets done hemming and hawing and going through the motions of Balboa debating on whether or not to train Creed when we know he will, the movie gets very good. Much like the first “Rocky” from 1976, a good amount of the running time is taken to build up the love interest. In this case, it’s Adonis’s downstairs neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson). This gives Adonis both strength and heart, and shows us that there are people in his life who care for him. Throw in some well-written and acted scenes at the local gym, a training montage, a brief moment of doubt when things go wrong, a seemingly unbeatable opponent (Tony Bellew), and an exciting boxing match to end the movie, and you have a pretty good entry into the “Rocky” franchise. Rent it.

More New Releases: “The Danish Girl,” starring Eddie Redmayne as a Danish transgender pioneer and Alicia Vikander as his wife who has to come to terms with it; “The Night Before,” Seth Rogen steals the show as one of three friends (along with Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) spend a wild Christmas Eve looking for the ultimate party; “Legend,” starring Tom Hardy as identical twin British gangsters from the 1950s and 60s; “Miss You Already,” with Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette as besties whose friendship is strained; “Pieces,” inept and non-sensical attempt at a slasher movie that many consider so bad it’s funny, but not me—I just think it’s bad; “Strange Brew,” classic Canadian comedy about a couple doughnut loving hosers (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) who get a job at a brewery and uncover some shenanigans; “Childhood’s End,” about aliens with a plan to save humanity, from the 1953 novel of the same name by Arthur C. Clarke; and “Cop,” starring James Woods as a renegade cop out to catch a serial killer--one of my all-time favorite movies with one of my all-time favorite endings.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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