It’s a little weird “Room” hasn’t played in Akron yet. After all, it was set here.
The movie, adapted from an acclaimed novel of the same name, won the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival, not far from where it was shot, and is already playing in Cleveland but didn’t screen in Akron until December 11 at The Nightlight, where it runs through Christmas Eve.
Like the novel, the movie tells the story through the perspective of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who is just turning five, having never left the inside of a small shed where his mother, Ma (Brie Larson), has been held captive for seven years. He doesn’t realize he’s been held captive, nor that there’s a world outside those walls. Still, he becomes responsible for securing their freedom in a harrowing escape sequence.
What makes this movie worth seeing isn’t the location. In fact, Akron has been unusually cast as the setting. It’s unusual because the book, whose author Emma Donoghue also penned the screenplay, doesn’t name a location and the way it plays out, there’s no real reason to name it Akron in the film either. And yet, the filmmakers seemingly went out of their way to do so, even if only subtly. There’s no explanation for why Akron, inside or outside of the movie.
Though the police cars don’t resemble our own, each has “Akron Metro Police” on the sides. Other cars carry Ohio tags, and it’s gray enough to feel like NEO, even without identifiable markers. But then there are the beams coming through the skylight in the titular room. Set designers told the New York Times they used computer modeling to get the right direction of the light for a north-facing building in Akron at certain points in the day.
All that work and it might as well have been Acorn, Ohio, which isn’t a problem if you like good films. The location is no more than a curiosity for those who recognize what it’s supposed to be.
“Larson gives the performance of her young career, and this movie showed a side dramatically of her that I’ve never seen before. The relationship between Larson and Tremblay feels natural in its simplicity, but made complex in in the many layers of a story peeled back slowly one layer at a time. …While this isn’t Tremblay’s first feature film, this is quite the coming out party for the boy wonder… It’s quite spellbinding to see [Jack] discover things that he hasn’t even dreamed about for the first time. It makes for some of the very best moments of a two-hour thought-provoker. …One thing that greatly pleased me was how this film didn’t fall into the clutches of a made for Lifetime Television movie. Ma finds out quickly that even though the two have left the room physically, they may never leave the room psychologically.”