It’s always interesting to read a book after watching the film adaptation first, particularly when the way the same story is told in different mediums is so drastically different. In Emma Donoghue’s remarkable novel, the only viewpoint we get is that of its narrator, a five-year-old boy named Jack, who lives with his mother (referred to solely as Ma throughout the book) in a 11-by-11-foot room, where he was born. As revealed later, Ma is a young woman who was abducted when she was a 19-year-old student, and kept for seven years in a soundproof garden shed by her captor, a much older man whose visits eventually leave her with a son.
This movie had one hell of a harrowing premise: a young woman is imprisoned in a tiny garden shed for seven years, together with her five-year-old son Jack born as a result of her captor’s visits. In order to create some kind of semblance of normality for the boy, she pretends that the 10 square metres they’re trapped in is in fact the entire world, that beyond the walls and the roof window there’s nothing but outer space, that the humans he sees on TV are make-believe. Though it’s clear that she can barely keep it together, Jack’s Ma nevertheless manages to sustain a remarkably innocent and even happy environment for him made up of ritual and familiarity, stories and games and birthday cakes, even amidst the horror of continuing visits by Old Nick, their jailer, during which Jack is told to sleep in the wardrobe. It’s not a huge spoiler to say that eventually Ma hatches an escape plan, which is as tense and suspenseful as any thriller (and very clever too!), and the second half of the film becomes about the mother and son’s adjustment to the world beyond the Room.