ROOM and the COMPLEXITIES OF FREEDOM
Click photo to watch the trailer for ROOM
By John Bucher (@johnkbucher)
Freedom is a pretty attractive idea. Throughout the ages, people have killed for it, died for it, and lived for it. There’s something within us that craves freedom in the same way we crave water, food, shelter, and sex. Even people that love their job long for the end of the day when they can be free to pursue their lives outside of work. Students count the minutes until the final bell rings, freeing them from their obligations. A deep depression hovers over some on Sunday nights as they see their freedom slipping away with Monday morning’s impending arrival. It’s safe to say, for the most part, we long to be free.
But what happens when we get that freedom we so desire? What do we do with it? Many of us long for freedom so we can do nothing at all. Others fill their list of things they would do so completely that when freedom finally does come, they are too overwhelmed to even begin checking items off. In our thirst to be freed from responsibility, we often have no idea what true happiness would look like, even if everything that stood between us and that freedom were removed.
This complexity is one of many themes explored in ROOM, which arrives in theaters this weekend. Without spoiling any plot points that are not obvious from the trailer, the story centers on a woman and her son who have been kidnapped for several years, their escape to freedom, and what life looks like once they achieve the goal they’ve desperately pursued. While ROOM is a moving and powerful film, it’s also a piece of art. It’s art that causes us to wrestle with life’s deeper questions. It’s a story that insists we examine the role of freedom in our own life. What is it in our own experiences that keep us boxed in? What does freedom look like for us? What would we do with it if we got it?
Both characters in ROOM struggle with freedom after they’ve attained it. While some of their reactions are to be unexpected, others shock us. When freedom gets complicated, we often wish to return to the prisons that held us simply because they are familiar. This was the reaction of the ancient Hebrews when they were freed from the pressing hands of the Egyptians. When their freedom became complex, they begged Moses to take them back to the bondage they had daily plotted relief from.
Whether enslaved or free, the common need for both is the presence of others. Imprisoned, we need others to help keep the hope of freedom alive. The only way the characters in ROOM survive their ordeal is with each other’s help. But even in freedom, we need each other as well. Freedom can actually be a lonely place. Without bounds, we can stand paralyzed, confused at which way to go or what to do. A gentle hand on our shoulder, guiding us through the first few steps can make all the difference. A gentle voice beside us, telling us that all will be okay, can be what we need in order to step fully into the freedom we have longed for.
In the film, the little boy believes his hair is “his strong.” We assume that the “Samson-esque” explanation is a narrative his mother offered to cover a more brutal truth. But “his strong” ends up playing a significant role in the lives of these characters. That little boy’s hair becomes a metaphor for something much more important in our lives. A24, the company releasing ROOM, has created a website that allows us to both “give strong” and “receive strong.” If ROOM teaches us anything, we know we need both to truly experience freedom.
ROOM opens in theaters on October 16.
Go to discover-your-strong.com to find out more about the film and the larger themes it explores.