Tag Archives: gilad shalit

Review – Room (15) [2016]

Room - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  • Lenny Abrahamson – Adam & Paul, Garage, What Richard Did, Frank

Cast:

  • Brie Larsson – Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, 21 Jump Street, Don Jon, The Glass Castle
  • Jacob Tremblay – The Smurfs 2, Shut In, Before I Wake, The Book Of Henry
  • Joan Allen – Face/Off, The Notebook, Bourne II-IV, A Good Marriage
  • Sean Bridgers – Sweet Home Alabama, Deadwood, Dark Places, The Magnificent Seven
  • William H Macy – Fargo, Psycho, Sahara, ER, Blood Father

Music Composer:

  • Stephen Rennicks – Garage, Eden, What Richard Did, Frank, L’accabadora

The Woman In Black, The Possession, Mama and It Follows have illustrated the general paucity of horror films in recent years and how the paranormal subgenre isn’t scary because it cannot happen in real life. In contrast, Misery, Requiem For A Dream, We Need To Talk About Kevin and The Gift have demonstrated that when films portray situations that can happen to people, it can be infinitely scarier and more unnerving to watch. Add Room to the latter category.

Joy (Brie Larsson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) playing with a snake they have made out of string and egg-shells.

Joy (Brie Larsson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) playing with a snake they have made out of string and egg-shells.

  Room is adapted from the book with the same title by Emma Donohue. The film begins with Joy (Brie Larsson) and her five year old, feral-looking son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), in a small, squalid shed. It transpires that Joy was abducted by a man known only as ‘Old Nick’ (Sean Bridgers) seven years ago and has been locked in the shed ever since. Jack has never been outside it and believes the shed (or ‘Room’ as he calls it) to be the entire world. However, Joy wants to get out of the shed. She thinks up a plan and, for it to succeed, it will involve Jack experiencing the outside world for the first time.

Room is an engaging film that succeeds in many ways. Immediately, people can empathise with Joy’s predicament. One may not find the threat of silly Gollum-like monsters and/or evil spirits attacking (imbecilic) individuals realistic or scary. Yet, the threat of being abducted and locked up in some hell-hole is a very real and terrifying one. The cases of Natascha Kampusch, Elizabeth Smart and Gilad Shalit emphasise this and highlight how harrowing the experience can be for the abductee and their families. Room effectively shows some (and implies others) of the horrors that the abductee may suffer in a mature, non-gratuitous way. This quite rightly makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Viewers, however, would not feel the abductee’s pain if it were not for Brie Larsson’s acting. She powerfully shows us the different stages that abductees can suffer from and, for this, she fully deserves the acclaim she is receiving. The only surprise is that Larsson is the only one receiving the plaudits and awards, as her main co-star, Jacob Tremblay, is also brilliant. For one so young, his acting is remarkable and completely realistic of how a five year old would see the world and behave under such traumatic circumstances. And his/Jack’s relationship with Brie Larsson/Joy is life-assuring and overwhelming for all the right reasons.

Joy desperately trying to explain to Jack that there is more to the world than 'Room,' despite Jack's protestations.

Joy desperately trying to explain to Jack that there is more to the world than ‘Room,’ despite Jack’s protestations.

Nevertheless, despite Room’s terrifying premise and outstanding acting, the film is not flawless. Joy’s plan to escape is fanciful at best (and unrealistic at worst). Additionally, the events leading up to Joy’s abduction are never fully expounded upon, and the same can be said about Joy’s family and the effects that her abduction have had on them. These two issues are particularly frustrating as it would not have been difficult for director Lenny Abrahamson to have elucidated upon them to make the movie more complete.

Over-all, Room is a very convincing film. The acting is wonderful and enables audiences to understand the characters and their predicaments, whether it be how an innocent child would see the world if he/she had only lived in a small shed, or how the torment of being abducted effects adults.

Nevertheless, Room is not an enjoyable movie. It is harrowing. What happens to Joy can happen to anyone. Thus, Room is a real horror film: one that upsets and unsettles viewers to the core.

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Review – Gilad Shalit: The Interview (N/A) [2013]

Gilad Shalit interview title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Cast:

  • Gilad Shalit (himself)
  • Noam Shalit (himself)
  • Aviva Shalit (herself)
  • Hadas Shalit (herself)
  • Yoel Shalit (himself)

(This is documentary was shown at an exclusive showing in accordance with an event. It has not been widely released or given a rating by the BBFC.)

For anyone Jewish, Israeli, or otherwise who followed the Gilad Shalit situation, 18th October 2011 was an emotional day. In Israel, it is said that no-one worked and the entire population was glued to the TV. For after almost five and a half years in Hamas captivity, following his abduction in June 2006, an asserted international campaign led by his father, and hard negotiations, Private Gilad Shalit became the first Israeli soldier to return home pale, skinny and alive in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. This low-budget Israeli documentary, produced and aired almost exclusively for Israeli TV, gives us an insight into Gilad’s life during his illegal incarceration and how he is getting on with life since being released.

Gilad Shalit, looking pale and gaunt whilst in captivity, wherein he was not allowed to go outside for five and a half years.

Gilad Shalit, looking pale and gaunt whilst in captivity, wherein he was not allowed to go outside for five and a half years.

The documentary is only 40-45 minutes long and skips back and forth between Gilad’s time in captivity and events subsequently. Since there is no footage of Gilad’s day to day life in the hell-hole underground cell that he was forbidden to leave whilst in captivity, interviews with Gilad since returning home (smiling and with the colour having returned to his face) are our only insight into what his life was like.

The empathy one feels for Gilad is heart-breaking as he tells us his monotonous life in the lonely cell. He kept to a schedule and refused to let himself lie on his bed and just think, since that filled him with despair. The schedule often comprised of playing games with himself, such as bundling up shirts/socks into a ball and seeing how many times he could throw it into a basket/bin in a row.

However, as Gilad’s time in captivity went on, he tells us that his captors gave him a TV and a radio (how nice of them), watched games of sport with him, and played chess with him, which all helped to make the time go a little faster. Furthermore, Gilad says that occasionally Hamas broke the monotony by making him record a video or write a letter. Sometimes these were released, as the video in September 2009 testifies, and on other occasions they were not; although, his captors never told him either way.

Gilad Shalit on the day of his release, walking alongside his relieved father, Noam (right), and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu (left).

Gilad Shalit on the day of his release, walking alongside his relieved father, Noam (right), and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu (left).

Yet, it is not just Gilad’s time in captivity that is touching, but how he felt in the days leading up to his release, wherein he says (with some humour) that he hardly slept because he was so nervous, fearing it would all go wrong; and how he has fared in trying to rebuild himself since coming home. After rarely speaking to anyone regularly for years, one can only imagine how hard it must have been for him to re-adapt into a social scene again. Interestingly, Gilad claims that one of the worst aspects of coming out is that he feels left behind since his friends and family had moved on with their lives, whilst he hadn’t.

Moreover, Gilad talks fondly of when he went to New York and saw the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of freedom personified, which he believes is symbolic of his life. But his trip also revealed another side of him: a desire to lead a normal life. Gilad is a painfully shy person and being a celebrity sits uncomfortably with his character, even though he knows it is something he has to live with.

Simultaneously throughout the documentary, we are given the perspective of Gilad’s mother and father, Aviva and Noam. Noam appears stern before the cameras. He says little but his determination to bring his son home is evident in his expression, as is his relief on the day of Gilad’s return. Gilad’s mother, though, is different. She weeps and prays for him while in captivity, and cries with joy afterward when he is home and returning to good health.

Gilad Shalit, as he looks today. Although skinny, he looks happy and healthy.

Gilad Shalit, as he looks today. Although skinny, he looks happy and healthy.

Over-all, the documentary is simple, short, and moving. The film covers many fascinating areas about Gilad before and after the events of 18th October 2011 from his angle and that of other members of the Shalit family. The documentary does not discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or re-open the debate about whether the price paid for Gilad’s release was worth it. Nor does it deal with any Post Traumatic Stress Disorders that Gilad may suffer from, or how Gilad feels toward his captors. This is understandable. The first is not something Gilad can answer objectively, and the latter two are personal matters and would be insensitive to ask. (And even if the issues were raised, they most probably could not be aired for political reasons.) In some ways, it is a shame that these topics are not raised. Arguably, they would have made the documentary more interesting.

Nevertheless, the documentary deals with almost all other issues and makes one’s eyes well with water. This is because the story of Gilad Shalit is such an affecting one. It’s a miracle he returned home alive. Two years have passed since his release and he seems to be making the right steps toward a full recovery. Please God he can go on to fulfil his potential. He deserves it!

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