THE WOMAN explores the roots of misogyny in our society, as well as in our families.
Room. 2015. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Screenplay by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel of the same name.
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, Wendy Crewson, Amanda Brugel, Joe Pingue, William H. Macy, Randal Edwards, & Justin Mader. A24/Element Pictures/No Trace Camping/TG4 Films.
Rated PG. 118 minutes.
I’ve not yet seen director Lenny Abrahamson’s 2014 film Frank, but awhile back I had the chance to see his earlier film What Richard Did and found it incredibly thought provoking, as well as intense and visceral. Abrahamson certainly has a knack for tackling darkness, and from the looks of Frank he also traffics in weirdness, too. Which is great because his latest directorial effort, a screen adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, is equal parts odd, heartwarming, and boasts a heap of darkness (though not in a horror-ish sense). With a true story serving as the jumping-off point for Donoghue, her story tackles the life affirming relationship between a mother and her son, despite all odds. And yet, as I’ve said, the dark aspects of the plot are constantly worming in and out of the story as it goes. I’ve never read the novel, but I hear great things. If it’s even half as good as the film (luckily the author adapted the screenplay herself; usually a plus), the book is bound to make me run the gamut of my emotions. With a sparse yet engaging style, Abrahamson takes us through this whirlwind story, finding aid in an incredible pairing of Brie Larson and child actor Jacob Tremblay. If you’ve heard lots of hype about the film there is a reason for it. The hype is very real and every last bit is well deserved.
Loosely inspired by the real life case of Josef Fritzl, Room tells the story of Ma (Brie Larson) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who live together in a small ten-by-ten room; a shed, essentially. Inside, they live out life one day at a time. They have the basics: a place to use the bathroom, to cook, to wash dishes, a place to sleep, too. That’s about all, though. Their keeper, a man they simply call Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) – the one who kidnapped Ma and brought her to Room – comes down from time to time to sexually abuse Ma, as Jack hides in the closet. Occasionally, when needed, Nick brings supplies like food and other things to the family of two. It is a bare, horrible existence. Jack doesn’t know anything of the outside world, except what he sees on television.
After he turns five-years-old, Jack begins to learn about the world outside Room. But he doesn’t exactly like what he hears, as it breaks down his preconceived notions of what the world is, being the four walls around him. As Ma tries her best to help Jack understand, she also formulates a plan. She wants her boy to help trick Old Nick.
Thus begins the hopeful escape of Ma and Jack. And it’s only the beginning.
One impressively tragic moment early on is when Jack tells his mother “next week when I‘m 6” she’d better get real candles. She has to correct him that he means next year. Right then and there we understand how blatantly obvious the damage done to him is, as in he’s unable to determine between a week, a month, a year. Because in Room, time is nothing, it is a measure of something the child can’t begin to comprehend. Outside, time goes by, but in there they’re stuck living the same day, over and over. Only minor changes happen. I love that within such a short frame of time we’re already able to understand the isolation.
Later, when Ma has to explain to her boy about the outside world it is intense and sad. It hurts to see Jack unable to get “what the world is.” He thinks it’s all a part of an awful process called growing up. He doesn’t get that the world is out there, they’ve simply been shut off from it by the hideous man known only as Old Nick.
My heart officially broke, yet opened wide, as Jack finds himself for the first time in the outside world beyond Room. Laying in the pan of a pickup truck, he looks directly into the sky and watches as the vast blue ocean above him passes by. It is one of the most emotionally intense scenes I’ve watched in awhile. At once, you’ll be so happy and simultaneously you’ll feel everything shatter. Honestly, it’s rare a drama gets to me so thoroughly and deeply. The way Abrahamson shoots this sequence is so powerful; it plays with your emotions, though, not in a way which tricks you. It is a pure and raw scene filled with beauty of the deepest kind.
The writing is incredible. I’m sure the novel is a powerhouse, because Donoghue adapts it well for the screen. One part I enjoyed so much is the narration by Jack, especially after they make it out of Room and into the world. He talks about being “in the world for 37 hours“, as if he was never actually in the world locked in that shed, which of course he really wasn’t, I suppose. But the way Tremblay talks, his way of expression, the inflection of his voice, it is so crazy to imagine he’s a child. It’s as if a grown man is inside him acting. And Donoghue’s words shine through him. The way she explains things via the Jack character is exposition, but it doesn’t feel that way. We really get life from his perspective, as it would likely be if a kid was hidden away for his entire first six years then suddenly released into the outdoors. Even the way we literally see shots from Jack’s perspective, it holds the excitement and wonder of a little kid, something we all can remember looking back on the early years. So combine Donoghue and her writing with Abrahamson’s directing style, and everything converges into such a perfect mix. The screenplay’s basic and honest storytelling is complimented by the way Abrahamson pushes things forward with an equally honest, compelling view into the life of all these people affected by tragedy. It is not an easy story to tell, in any sense, yet these two artists, along with a great team, make Room into one of the best movies of 2015.
A flawless 5-star film. Perhaps it isn’t everyone else’s cup of tea. Maybe others may expect more outright darkness, but that’s just not this movie. Room tackles a difficult story, one loosely based in real events. It tackles the difficulty with grace, subtlety. The main actors, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, knock their characters out of the park; their chemistry is unreal at every moment, in every last scene, and you’d swear they lived together for a year before filming. All cylinders pump from the moment Room begins, to the minute the credits roll. Not often am I visibly affected by a drama, though, every now and then one comes along that captivates me, takes me to another place emotionally, mentally. Room is one of those very films. It won’t be soon that I forget it, either. Neither will you, I suspect.
Jug Face. 2013. Directed & Written by Chad Crawford Kinkle.
Starring Sean Bridgers, Lauren Ashley Carter, Kaitlin Cullum, Sean Young, and Larry Fessenden. Modern Distributors.
Rated R. 81 minutes.
★★★★★ (Blu ray release)
When I’d first heard the premise of Jug Face I absolutely knew I wanted to see it. Then of course I realized both Sean Bridgers and Larry Fessenden were set to be in the film – I was hooked. I’ve always been a fan of Fessenden in particular as a filmmaker, however, he can also be a treat in front of the camera. Bridgers came to my attention first through Deadwood, and of course more recently I’ve enjoyed his work in The Woman which also included one of the stars of this film I haven’t seen much of: Lauren Ashley Carter. These three in particular, along with a couple others (such as Sean Young whom I’ve enjoyed before in Blade Runner and Wall Street), really do a great job acting here. One of the pitfalls in many horrors, whether they be older or more modern, is that they’re often not well acted. Sometimes, if they plot is strong enough and the writing is tight, a horror can get by without stellar acting. However, if the plot or writing can’t cut the mustard so to speak then a horror really has to really on some decent, or better, acting to draw people in. If not it’s all for bust. Well Chad Crawford Kinkle’s Jug Face is packed with both great acting and tight writing.
The story is a peculiar and unique one, which is something I loved right off the bat about Jug Face.
A young girl named Ada (Carter), pregnant with her brother’s child, lives in a backwoods town where a pit is worshipped as a healing power for the whole community. In turn, one of the locals Dawai (Bridgers) is spoken to by the pit and told who is to be sacrificed. He then creates a face jug for each person. This person is given to the pit. One day, however, Ada finds a jug with her face on it, so she hides it. And this is the plot of Jug Face.
It is a fresh perspective on horror. It isn’t the typical backwoods slasher or “cannibals in the woods” type trope in the genre. This is a great way to use the backwoods setting and create something new to give to the world of horror. In my personal opinion, Kinkle has a great talent for the strange.
For the most part I enjoyed the whole film from start to finish. I only had problems with one part of the plot. I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’ll just say that it’s a little more than we need in terms of the supernatural – if the film didn’t have this little added part, nothing would have suffered. The pit itself is enough for the film. It’s mysterious to a certain extent. But this part (I’ll say it involves a ghost) just sort of feels forced. Ada, as a character, could have gone through the motions she does without Kinkle having to resort to a ghost as motivation. I love the character of Ada, and maybe I’m giving her too much credit, but I feel like she would have decided to do what she does without being lead by a ghost. It felt maybe a bit too expository to have the ghostly aspect in there. Though it doesn’t ruin anything. Kinkle still tells a fascinatingly weird tale.
As for the Blu ray release, I am highly pleased. The picture, of course, is absolutely fantastic. There are some wonderful shots in this film that ought to be enjoyed in the highest definition. It’s really a visual treat. The special features for Jug Face also surpassed my expectations. Not only is there a great little documentary feature titled “The Story of Jug Face” which runs about half an hour (includes cast and crew interviews and some behind-the-scenes filmmaking stuff that I loved!), it also came with Kinkle’s short film Organ Grinder. This little horror short, clocking in just past the six-minute mark, is a real shocker. I loved every single second. It’s about a woman whose mother is killed, after which she seduces a man possessed by a demon for purposes uncertain. We do find out her purpose near the end. What a great little horror. I highly recommend seeking it out. It makes this Blu ray release really worth it. Such a great addition to the film. You get to see Kinkle’s sensibilities in the short film coupled with those of Jug Face, and this provides a bit more insight into him as a filmmaker. Great stuff.
As a film, I have to give Jug Face a 4 out of 5 stars. It is a great movie with some interesting performances. In particular, Bridgers really does a fantastic job with the character of Dawai. Carter also does great work, as a flawed female character who is interesting, as well as strong. However, the movie is tripped up a little with the ghost stuff. It would have benefitted to cut that stuff out, and leave the film’s supernatural aspects to the pit, its mysterious powers, the cult-like community. All that worked. That being said, once again, this does not ruin anything. It’s merely a part of Jug Face I don’t particularly care for. Other than that, it’s amazing.
For the Blu ray release this is absolutely 5 stars. A wonderful documentary, which includes Kinkle himself talking about how he came up with the story and other bits and pieces about the process of making the film itself. Also, the fact Organ Grinder is on here makes this a must have Blu ray.
If you like unique horror, this indie film is worth your time. Kinkle has a great eye for horror. His story is fresh, and doesn’t get bogged down with a lot of the typical trash in the backwoods horror sub-genre. I highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed if you’re into something a little different and outside the run of the mill.