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ROOM - the film

posted 16 Jan 2016, 13:39 by Fran Brady   [ updated 16 Jan 2016, 13:54 ]
   I am a lifelong voracious reader. I got told off by the snippy little librarian in my snippy little local library when I was eight for 'stealing books' - she had a rule that only one book a day could be borrowed and that was never enough for me. Nowadays, with so many different ways to absorb books, I am always 'reading' at least three at once: one audiobook, downloaded onto a magic little gadget about 2 inches square, called a 'shuffle' (very appropriate, as it keeps me entertained and patient while my old dog shuffles round the park, sniffing and piddling on every second blade of grass); one e-book which I can read on my phone when I find myself having to hang about waiting, which I hate; one 'real' book which lives on my chair in the dining room and gets read with breakfast and any other lonely meal. Oh, and there might well be a library-borrowed CD box with another audio book in my car, especially if I have a few longish journeys that week. And, just for a wee change, I listen to plays and book-excerpt readings (good old iplayer) in bed at night before falling asleep or during the night if I can't sleep.

   With all these stories, plots, characters, beginnings and endings assaulting my brain at the same time it is a wonder I don't get them all jumbled up. Funnily enough, this rarely happens but what DOES happen is that I find it difficult to recall any one book in any detail quite soon after I finish reading it. I imagine my brain like a filing cabinet into which I just keep stuffing new files and hence pushing previous ones further and further back. I have even been known to start reading/listening to a book and to be about a quarter of the way into it before I realise that I already read it a couple of years ago.

   But there comes along the occasional book that makes such an impact that I remember it in vivid detail for years. I remember who wrote it (we poor writers are rarely remembered even when our books are best sellers and become films - check out TV quiz shows to confirm this). I prick up my ears whenever I hear it mentioned and I get the feelings that it engendered in me all over again. I am at once lost in admiration and consumed with envy for the author.

Emma Donaghue's 'ROOM' is one such book for me. But, strangely, I never imagined it being made into a film whereas I usually look forward to that happening to a favourite book. ROOM is such an intense experience for the reader - or. at least, it was for me - that it has the feeling of being somehow personal and precious. When I heard Emma Donaghue talking on radio about the film (which went out on general release yesterday), I was taken aback. I almost said 'But you didn't ask ME if you could do that!' But, as I listened, I learned that Donaghue wrote the screenplay herself while she was waiting for the book to be published. The author always saw it as a film. And somehow that made it seem all right. Reading the book, I had identified with the imprisoned, abused young mother and so the thought of a film had screamed exposure, exploitation and betrayal. Listening to the radio review programme, I identified with the author and accepted her vision for the story, her boundaries, her bravery.

This afternoon, I saw the film. I found it riveting and heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful and renewing. I lived through all the emotions that reading the book gave me. I was a rag by the end, so much so that my husband had to take me to the nearest Starbucks and feed me vanilla latte before I could face the snowy world outside. He hasn't read the book. He found it 'different, rather slow, quite topical, well-acted . . . glad I saw it'. Damn with faint praise. Maybe it's woman/mother thing, maybe you need to have read the book, maybe . . .

All I know is: I also watch a lot of films and quickly forget most of them. But I will NEVER forget this one.