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A Mother Balances Truth And Survival In 'Room'

Brie Larson as Ma and Jacob Tremblay as Jack in the new movie adaptation of <em>Room.</em>
Caitlin Cronenberg/A24
Brie Larson as Ma and Jacob Tremblay as Jack in the new movie adaptation of Room.

In the new film Room — based on the novel by Emma Donoghue — a young woman, held captive for seven years, breaks free with her son, who's never seen the outside world. All he knows is the world of Room, of Table and Lamp and Skylight, and occasionally Old Nick, the man who kidnapped his mother.

Brie Larson stars as the woman — known mostly as "Ma." She tells NPR's Rachel Martin that she bonded with Jacob Tremblay, who played her son Jack, on their drives to the production site. "We could just rap, talk about our dreams ... he has all these great ideas for stories and for movies," she says. "And we would arrive at the production office, our genius production designer ... had set aside foil and tape and the five crayons that Jack has, and gave us the opportunity every day for like an hour or two to just do arts and crafts, and build all the toys that you see in Room."

Interview Highlights

On the routine Ma and Jack develop

Jacob, or Jack, he says good morning to every single thing in Room, because he's personified all of the objects. We brush our teeth, we pick out our clothes — which is a little odd to see, because we really only have two shirts and two pairs of pants each, but you see through this process that Ma is trying to create this sense of a suburban life, that there is a routine, because in a lot of ways, there's nothing but time. And so you start to see very quickly that this is a woman who has decided to create a life here, and not just roll over and give up.

On the relationship between Ma and Jack

There's the mother and son aspect of it, but then there's the fact that really, the only person that Ma has is Jack, and so she can't shatter him, she has to continue to protect him, and so there's this real push-pull ... of feeling these moments of absolute hitting her limit and frustration, and then hitting her limit and needing to pull back and make sure that he still feels that love and protection.

And it's a tricky space, because she has lied to him, she's created this mythology in order to protect him and in order to protect herself, and kind of deny the outside world to herself so she doesn't feel that she's missing out, or that the world is going on without her ... but how do you explain the world to someone who's never seen it?

On Jack as Ma's lifeline, her chance for escape

It's discussed in the book, and is sort of briefly touched upon in the film that there's two years where Ma is in Room completely alone, before Jack comes along. And I think it's a very dark time for her. It's once she goes through this pregnancy, and there's this life, this piece of her that's outside of her that's growing and learning, that then, this thing clicks into her where she has to find a way to live, and to survive, and to make a life out of this, and then she has to have the courage to set him free and give him up, in this rather tense escape sequence, in the hopes that he can get through it, and at the very least, he will be free.

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NPR Staff