Room by Emma Donoghue (2010)
Room directed by Lenny Abrahamson (2015)
Room was requested by Adele! If you have a request, let me know and I will add it to my list! I also have a video sharing some future book vs movie topics in which I ask you to comment which from the list you would like me to cover sooner.
I saw this movie in theaters, and soon after decided to read the book it was adapted from. At the time, I couldn’t get passed the way the book is narrated and only made it a quarter of the way through. It isn’t just that it is narrated by a child, but just the way she has Jack narrate things and describe things could get annoying if I’m being honest. Some examples read, “I get on Ma’s lap in Rocker with our legs all jumbled up. She’s the wizard transformed into a giant squid and I’m prince JackerJack and I escape in the end. We do tickles and Bouncy Bouncy and jaggedy shadows on Bed Wall.”
“If I ran away I’d become a chair and Ma wouldn’t know which one. Or I’d make myself invisible and stick to Skylight and she’d look right through me. Or a tiny speck of dust and go up her nose and she’d sneeze me right out.”
A reviewer on Goodreads, Thegirlbytheseaofcortez wrote, “Well, a paragraph of that here and there might have worked, but a whole half of a book? Not on your life. And this is a kid who can sing along to Eminem and Woody Guthrie music videos. He knows the latest dances. He listens to people speak on TV. His own mother, the only person with whom he converses, speaks normally. He uses words like “rappelling” and “hippopotami” with ease. Heck, he even knows more about the fall of the Berlin Wall than many Germans. So what’s with the almost unintelligible baby talk? I know he’s only five, but other than his horrendous speech, he seems to be a very precocious five. And please. How many rundowns of “Dora the Explorer” or “Spongebob Squarepants” can one reader take without wanting to throw the book across the room?”
Once they get out into the world, there are so many lines where Jack is making these insightful points on the world and how people don’t act the way they should. Like how kids see things so clearly because of their sweet innocence and they see the world more clearly than adults do.
“In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time. Even Grandma often says that, but she and Steppa don’t have jobs, so I don’t know how persons with jobs do the jobs and all the living as well. In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there’s only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit. Also everywhere I’m looking at kids, adults mostly don’t seem to like them, not even the parents do. They call the kids gorgeous and so cute, they make the kids do the thing all over again so they can take a photo, but they don’t want to actually play with them, they’d rather drink coffee talking to other adults. Sometimes there’s a small kid crying and the Ma of it doesn’t even hear.”
Again, something like this once or twice would be fine, but it is a number of times and it got cheesy. Like parents how tweet the “profound” things their child says.
Also, now that I’m on a rant, Jack gets a small bite from a dog and thinks the dog is a vampire that is trying to drink his blood. So, he knows all about vampires and zombies, yet doesn’t know the common knowledge that dogs, and animals in general, sometimes bite people?? How did he that never come up on tv or anything. Ma tells him a mouse or rat would bite him, why would he think it weird a dog bites him?
Anyway, this time around, I read it to the end and am so glad I did! I think this is a great book, and while I have my complaints about the writing style, I do think it was a genius idea to write from the perspective of Jack.
I love the way the story opens with us thinking Ma is crazy or something and is lying to her son. It is then revealed that she has been kidnapped. Then, they escape! But the story doesn’t end there. I love that Donoghue has the second half of the book be them adjusting to life outside of Room. Seeing that it isn’t a simple “happily ever after” once someone escapes.
This movie was nominated for best picture, best director and best screenplay, as well as best actress for Brie Larson. The latter being the only award the movie actually won.
This was the movie that shot Jacob Trembley into stardom (I also have a Wonder book vs movie which I covered a while back and stars Trembley). He and Larson are incredible in this and seeing this in theaters was such an emotional experience.
Donoghue wrote the screenplay herself, and apparently had written it as a screenplay before writing the book. Though the book was published five years before the release of the movie. It is a faithful adaptation and while there are some changes to talk about, overall, it follows the book very close.
Her first baby
In the book, she had given birth to a baby girl first, but the baby got tangled in the cord and she died in birth. Old Nick was there and did nothing to help. He then buried the baby in the backyard.
After that experience, when giving birth to Jack, she didn’t want him there and when he opened the door, she yelled at him to get out. She will tell Jack that the first baby was him trying to be born, but it didn’t work so he came back the second time.
We see in the book that Ma is taking birth control after Jack’s birth but this isn’t shown in the movie.
When Old Nick is arrested, she tells the police about the first baby and he is going to be held responsible for her death.
In book and movie, we know Old Nick isn’t the man’s real name. Old Nick is someone they saw on tv that only comes in houses at night. Old Nick is also a reference to the devil is some places and Donoghue says that’s why she has them call him this. She also purposefully had the child Ma gives birth to be a boy. Not only because the author had a five-year-old son herself, but also to symbolize Mary, Christ and Satan basically (from what I’ve read). As well as to balance men, having the evil of Old Nick outweighed by the good of Jack.
Time in Room
The movie has the time in Room and the time in the world perfectly split in equal parts. So the first hour is in Room, but this whole part flew by (the whole movie flies by actually). In the book, I was wanting them to hurry and escape because I was maybe getting a tad bored, but not too much. Anyway, the movie never had me bored and kept things moving faster, as movies usually do. They may have shortened some events, and left out something here and there, but they kept it basically the same. For example, when the power is cut, it is out for at least two days in the book but in the movie, it seems to just be one.
When Jack gets out of the wardrobe to look at Old Nick is in book and movie, but in the book, there was a previous night where the Jeep was up on a shelf and Jack makes it move and so it falls off the shelf onto Old Nick. He freaks out, thinking she is trying to hurt him and if I recall, it is at this point in the book when he grabs her neck and leaves bruises.
In both, their plan of escape is the same, saying he is sick, but when Old Nick doesn’t take him to the hospital, plan b is to pretend Jack is dead.
In the book, after they escape, they have to stay up for a while getting tests done and giving the police their reports and stuff. They also stay at a mental facility the majority of the time and it isn’t until Ma’s suicide attempt after the interview that Jack goes to stay with Grandma and Leo. In the very end, in the movie they are still living with Grandma and Leo, but in the book, they get an apartment in a complex for people who are transitioning from the hospital to the world.
In the book Ma has a brother named Paul who is married and has a daughter. Jack and Ma are going to go with them to the dinosaur museum. But on the morning of, Ma is having a “gone day” because of the previous day’s interview. Jack still goes, but they stop at a store first.
Scenes like this, where people are taking Jack to public places (later Grandma takes him to a store to buy a soccer ball) are so stressful to read. Not because jack is overwhelmed, but the stress of the adults who are trying to handle things with Jack. He unintentionally steals, because he doesn’t understand stores. He takes his shoes off and leaves them somewhere because he doesn’t think he needs them inside (he never wore shoes in room) and then when going to the bathroom, he doesn’t understand boundaries and what is appropriate and what isn’t. When Grandma takes him out, he wanders off and starts talking to people, telling them he is the famous Jack they have been reading about.
The brother, and these events out and about are left out of the movie.
In the book we only see Ma’s dad once. He visits in the hospital cafeteria and it is brief because he says he can’t stand to see and be around Jack and he is just a reminder of what Ma went through. Ma says, so you preferred thinking I was dead?? The dad leaves and flies back home.
We actually see more of him in the movie; however, we have a similar scene at the dinner table when Ma addresses the fact that he hasn’t said a word to jack and avoids looking at him. After this event we don’t see the dad anymore.
Grandma and Leo
I loved the interactions between Jack and Grandma and Leo. It was so sweet and I loved how in the book Grandma encouraged Jack to get out of his comfort zone.
The movie was just as sweet and heartwarming, if not more so! I absolutely loved seeing them connect with Jack and in the movie, Jack even tells Grandma he loves her, a scene that wasn’t in the book.
In the movie, Grandma had kept Ma’s room exactly as it had been when she went missing. Whereas in the book, she had turned Ma’s room into a home gym saying it was after a few years a grief counselor suggested she empty the room and donate everything. I understand why after years, people would tell her to move on and she would make an effort to do so. If I were Ma I would try and be understanding, but that would also be so hard to see.
In the book it seems like Ma is adjusting a bit better than she is in the movie. She goes on the interview, and as in the movie, the interviewer asks some horrible questions. Including insinuating that had she been a more selfless mother, she would have had Old Nick take Jack to a hospital so he could have a proper childhood. As well as calling Old Nick Jack’s father when clearly Ma doesn’t think of Old Nick in that way-because why would she.
Anyway, in the book Ma even turns to her lawyer at one point and is like, is she allowed to ask me such stupid questions? We also overhear her talking to the doctor and opening up about her struggles and getting help. Nonetheless, in the book as in the movie, she has a suicide attempt by overdosing on pills but thankfully is saved in time.
In the movie there are so many intense, emotional, powerful scenes where we see the struggle she is going through. At one point, she is in bed and Jack is watching Dora on Grandma’s cell phone. She tells Jack to watch it somewhere else, then grabs him and takes him to the living room where there are a bunch of toys and tells him to play with them.
She tells Grandma she is worried about him and he needs to connect with something. When Jack is the one that is actually adjusting well. Ma is projecting her own feelings onto Jack. She and her mom have an argument about this, and Ma breaks down saying, what’s wrong with me, I’m supposed to be happy.
There is a line in the book I really loved during the interview when the interviewer is saying how people see Ma as “an angel, a talisman of goodness” after which is reads, “Ma makes a face. ‘All I did was I survived, and I did a pretty good job of raising Jack. A good enough job.’” This is a concept I love, we put people up as hero’s and look up to them. But for that person, they don’t feel like a hero. They were just doing what they had to survive, and ultimately would rather they hadn’t had to go through this hard thing which in turn has turned them into a “hero”.
Jack Missing Room
In the movie we see how Jack misses being in Room. In the book this was even bigger, and he even gives Grandma a list of items from Room he wants and she is able to get these items from the police. Including the jeep and the rug.
As in the movie, Ma calls the cops and is able to go back to Room with Jack so they can both get closure. Jack realizes how small it was and says how it doesn’t feel like Room anymore. After saying goodbye to Room, Jack gets the closure he needs and is ready to officially move on, as is Ma.
Some other changes
In the movie we see Jack has another boy he is friends with by the end and is playing with, we don’t see this is in the book.
In the movie we see that Ma is still breastfeeding Jack but no longer can after her suicide attempt because being away from him for a week or two caused her milk to stop. In the book this is the same, but the breastfeeding was a bigger thing because when they escape, people find it weird she is still breastfeeding her five-year-old. The interviewer even brings it up to which Ma is like, everything from out story-and this is what you choose to focus on? But as in the movie, she can no longer breastfeed him after they are apart.
In the movie Leo has a dog which Jack was of course every excited to meet. In the book he didn’t have a dog.
In the movie, when Jack escapes he has Ma’s bad tooth in his mouth to comfort him. In the book, he had bad tooth in his sock, however, when they are apart after her overdose, he will have it in his mouth as a way to self sooth. It kind of grossed me out to be honest. By the end though he has lost it.
In the book, once they escape Jack will keep bumping into things because his depth perception is off after being in a small, confided space for so long. His eyes also aren’t good at seeing far away since he never had to see far in Room.
In the book we also see religion play a bigger role because in Room Ma tells Jack scripture stories and they pray to Jesus. This isn’t in the movie.
Book vs Movie
The movie has voiceover by Jack and he will say direct quotes from the book where he explains things to us in that kid way. It works for the movie though because it is only a few times. I think we also get a better feel for Ma in the movie as well because we are seeing her ourselves rather than in the book where we are just told about her through the perception of a five-year-old. We also have that scene in the movie, the night before she tells Jack he needs to pretend to be dead, we see Ma awake and crying, not wanting to have to ask her son to do what has to be done.
The movie was just so much more emotionally impactful and is so beautifully shot and the acting is incredible. If you have not seen this movie, go out and watch it right now! The book however, I wouldn’t’ recommend to someone who has already seen the movie. The movie leaves stuff out, but as I was watching it, I didn’t care about what was left out or changed, because I was so engrossed in the story as it was being told in the movie. The movie definitely wins here.