by Jennifer Ryan
Books and movies are created to entertain, to inform, or to transform. I feel like most critics are obsessed with the last purpose. Writing a book or making a movie that transports you to a different time or place isn’t enough for them. Critics want an experience that transforms them into a different human being. I don’t mind becoming someone else, as long as the “someone else” is a decent person. Unfortunately, I don’t always feel like a decent person after watching one of these critically acclaimed movies. Don’t get me wrong. Not every Oscar nominated movie is a total downer. Forrest Gump, Erin Brokovich, Slumdog Millionaire, As Good as It Gets (to name a few)were all fine films. They managed to entertain and garner positive attention from movie critics, which was no easy feat.
I’m talking about other movies and their ability to transform. Requiem for a Dream is a movie I avoided for a long time. It transformed me. It transformed me into a person who wanted to take a hot shower and flay the skin from my body with a straight razor. I get it. Drug addiction is ugly. I would love to “unsee” most of that movie, but I can’t. Jared Leto’s arm. Jennifer Connelly’s sex party scene. Can’t. Un. See. Recently, I watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and that movie transformed me into a blubbering idiot. If you want a movie that will leave you sobbing into a pillow for twenty minutes, this is your movie. The movie stars two little boys. One boy is the son of a Nazi. The other boy is Jewish and lives in a concentration camp. They somehow befriend each other. I really don’t know what I was thinking. Wait. Yes, I do. I thought, “Maybe this Holocaust movie will have a happy ending.” It doesn’t.
I feel the same way about books too. I’ve read Hemingway. I hate Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms transformed me into a person, who wished she had invented time travel and could stop herself from wasting two weeks reading this novel. I realize trashing Hemingway is sacrilege, but I don’t care. I find his books really depressing. He should have called A Farewell to Arms something else…A Farewell to Joy. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all of this. I’m not a professional critic. If you’re looking for someone to give you an artistic interpretation of a book or movie, let me save you the suspense. Look elsewhere. Sometimes, most of the time, I just want to be entertained. Sometimes, I want to see a car chase or have a good cry or laugh maniacally for an hour. Sometimes, I want to be entertained or be informed or be transformed. I promise my future reviews will fall into one of these categories, and you’ll know which category from the beginning of the article.
Given my lack of affinity for all movies critically acclaimed, I watched Room with a high degree of hesitation. It was free on Amazon Prime. I thought, “Eh…what the hell? Why not?” I was pleasantly surprised to find this movie both entertaining AND transforming. Brie Larson won an Oscar for her role, and it was well deserved. However, Jacob Tremblay, as her son Jack, owns the movie. I can’t tell you why Jack and his mother are in this room without giving away too many plot details, and I really don’t want to spoil it for you. I will say that Jack and his mother view this room in very different ways. Jack sees the room as a magical and comforting place in which every object has a name and is connected with a special memory. His mother, on the other hand, wants to leave this room and get as far away from it as possible. We actually see the world from Jack’s perspective, a child’s perspective, thanks to clever camera angles and Jack’s narration. The director has taken dark subject matter and turned it into something endearing. The movie is about the adaptability of children and how a parent’s love really can help them overcome any obstacle. Room is ultimately a story about mothers and sons, which is part of the reason I enjoyed it so much. One of the great highlights to having children is seeing the world through their eyes. Everything is new again. Unfortunately, we adults become so consumed by the routine of daily life and caregiving that we forget to enjoy the world with them. After the movie had ended, my husband and I watched our son playing with his toy dinosaurs on the floor. Then, we joined him. I noticed that our dinosaurs roared a little louder. Our laughs lasted a little longer. I think Room transformed us into better parents…at least for a while.