The movie Room is about a young boy, Jack, who is raised in a shed for the first five years of his life. His mother, Ma, does her best to provide for him the best she can while being confined to the shed. Throughout the movie, we see how Jack develops in his early years of childhood and how being restricted in the shed has affected his social skills as well as his developmental progress. Jack has an extremely different environment than that of a normal boy his age. In Jack’s environment, he never goes outside, nor does he have any toys or friends to play with.
He lives with his mother and only comes into contact with her. During the movie, we see how his mother tries to make up for the small space they have. She has him run back and forth to get his exercise, and teaches him as much as she can. They have a TV in their room, but Ma tells Jack that everything in it is made up. She understands that they will most likely be in the room for the rest of their lives, and raises Jack to believe that there is nothing outside of the room, only space. He does not go to school, and he has no social contact besides with his mother.
On the other hand, a typical developing child would have much more than Jack. They would most likely be in school learning basic academic topics as well as developing social skills. They would play outside with friends, or with toys, or with their family. They would not be confined to their house and instead would be encouraged to go outside and play. These children would have an understanding that the world is much bigger than they are and that there is much more to be discovered than they know. Most children would be in some type of sports team or exercise activity.
Jean Piaget was the godfather of development, developing a constructivist approach to how children develop. While believing to have a continuous theory, Piaget had a discontinuous model for his theory. He believed children learned in stages and in order to get to the next stage, they had to “pass” the previous stage. Piaget believed children learned about the world by exploring their surroundings. Piaget had four stages in his theory: sensorimotor (0-2 years), preoperational (2-7 years), concrete operational (7-12 years), and formal operational (12+ years). In the movie, we only see Jack in his fifth year.
Based on how he acts during this year, we can assume how he developed in his previous years, but can only make educated guesses, meaning there is potential for Jack to have developed skills that are overlooked as well as him to have not developed skills that we assume he has. According to Piaget’s theory, Jack is currently in the preoperational stage. The first stage of Piaget’s theory is the sensorimotor stage, which is completed at the age of two. During the sensorimotor stage, infants learn to sense and react to their environment as well as gain object permanence, use symbols to represent objects, and pretend play.
We are led to believe that Jack has learned all of these skills. Jack is able to make believe and have imaginary friends or pets which is shown when he talks about his pet dog, Lucky. Jack believes that the dogs and cats and other animals do not exist, except for his imaginary pet dog Lucky, whom he mentions several times throughout the movie. Jack shows the audience he has gained object permanence when he goes in the wardrobe, yet knows that everything in the living room and bedroom is still there, while also knowing his mom his out there too and has not disappeared.
The second stage of Piaget’s theory is the preoperational stage, which is completed at the age of seven. Since Jack is only five, we can assume that he will have gained most of these skills, but not all as he still developing. During this stage, children develop symbolic representation, as well as growing away from egocentrism, centration, and conservation tasks. Unfortunately we do not see Jack in a centration or conservation task environment, and are unable to discuss whether he has mastered said skills.
However, we are shown that Jack has developed symbolic representation when he is able to talk about his imaginary dog even though the dog is not there. Throughout the movie we see Jack growing away from egocentrism. Towards the beginning of the movie, Ma tries to convince Jack that what she had told him before was a lie and that there is a world outside of the shed. Jack does not believe her and is unable to move away from the idea that other people can have different points of view and what you had previously believed can be wrong.
When Jack finally believes Ma about the outside world, we can assume that he is starting to grow away from egocentrism and realizing that everyone has different points of views. While Piaget remains the godfather of developmental psychology, many psychologists have since expanded on his theory adding in different stages. Erik Erikson was a student of Sigmund Freud. He added on to Piaget’s theory with social and environmental influences. Erikson’s theory consisted of eight stages. Each stage has a crisis that must be confronted with a resolution virtue.
From birth to a ear old, infants are confronted with the crisis of trust vs. mistrust, resulting in hope. From a year to three and a half years, toddlers are confronted with the crisis of autonomy vs. shame and doubt, resulting in will. From four to six years, pre-schoolers are confronted with the crisis of initiative vs. guilt, resulting in purpose. From six years to puberty aged, school-aged children are confronted with the crisis of industry vs. inferiority, resulting in competence. From adolescence to adulthood, adolescents are confronted with the crisis of identity vs. role confusions, resulting in fidelity.
Young adults are confronted with intimacy vs. isolation, resulting in love. Middle age adults are confronted with generativity vs. stagnation, resulting in care. Elders are confronted with ego-integrity vs. despair, resulting in wisdom. During the trust vs. mistrust stage, infants must develop a sense of trust in others and itself. Jack developed a sense of trust in his mother throughout his time in the room. Due to his mother’s opinion of Old Nick, he was taught that he was not to be trusted and therefore did not. Overall, Jack was very trusting, which was shown when he was escaping through multiple events.
He trusted his mom to give him the correct information of how to escape and what to do from there. Once out of Old Nick’s truck, he went up to the first person he saw to ask for help. He trusted the policewoman to help find his mother and get him to safety. During the autonomy vs. shame and doubt stage, toddlers must develop a sense of independence and learn to do things on their own. Jack first shows us his sense of independence when he wanted the candles on his birthday cake. When Ma tells him he cannot have any, he throws a fit saying that is not fair because she promised him a “real” birthday cake, which meant there would be candles.
The next time he showed his independence was while planning for the escapes. Jack consistently begs his mom not to send him out saying he does not want to do it and keeps trying to push it off by saying “tomorrow” or “when he is six”. He gets frustrated when he is rolled up in the rug practicing his escape and tells his mom he hates her. His next sense of independence was when he was talking to his mom on the phone after she almost overdosed. He wanted her to come home, but she was saying that it was not time and he said it was his time to decide things, not hers, repeating what she said to him when she forced him to escape.
During the initiate vs. guilt stage, pre-schoolers must work to be like their parents as well feel guilty for their misdeeds. Jack expresses guilt when he leaves the wardrobe while Old Nick is still in the bed with Ma. Jack walks up to Old Nick while Old Nick is still sleeping. Old Nick awoke and saw Jack standing there. He started to initiate conversation when Ma woke up and screamed at Old Nick telling him not to look or talk to Jack and hit him. After the Old Nick leaves, Jack runs to Ma’s arms apologizing for leaving the wardrobe and promises to never do that again.
We can see that Jack does not fully complete the purpose for the stage as he is still learning and growing in the psychological stage. Ma’s parenting can be described as an authoritative style. She had clear boundaries of what Jack could and could not do. He was not allowed to talk to Old Nick, but he was allowed to do things that were accessible to him in the Room. Old Nick gave him a remote controlled car that he was allowed to play with. Jack did not have much in the Room, but Ma did the best she could to give him a good life.
You can tell Ma gets frustrated with Jack a lot causing her to cross into the permissive parenting style at times. Due to not having much in the room, she does not have much to discipline him for and therefore does not know what to do when he misbehaves or disobeys. For example, when Jack screams at his mom for not having candles on his birthday cake, instead of discipline him and telling him that is not the right away to express his feelings, she breaks down crying and hugs him telling him she understand his frustration. Some pros of her parenting style are her Jack are really close and he listens to her and trusts her.
Some cons of her parenting style are Jack does not know how to behave or communicate effectively in the real world. For example, he could not explain himself to the cop, but he was trying his best. Jack and Ma have a secure attachment style. This is shown when they are reunited after Jack escapes. While in the cop car alone, Jack is crying and screaming for his mom, but the minute he sees his mom he calms down. In my opinion it was good, but could have been better if they had shown us Jack in his earlier years, such as when he was born, or as a baby.
Seeing him grow up and learning to walk and talk would have helped us to understand how badly being in the room affected him. While we can still see the damage it did, seeing these stages of growth would significantly help with understanding why he acts the way he does. Also, doing a flash forward at the end would have been nice because we can see how being in the world changed him and whether it did more good or more harm. I would have liked to see how Jack did in an educational environment as well. During the movie we saw that he was able to read, but I would have liked to see if he was able to keep up in school or if he was falling behind.
This shows that development and learning are more dependent on nurture environments than nature environments. Jack was able to develop and learn almost normally while in the room from the teaching of his mother. While he did not have the complete development that a five year old would have, he was still able to communicate and function in the real world as a child slightly behind the normal developmental rate. It is hard to assess his learning abilities because we never saw him in a school environment, but we did see that he was clearly able to form sentences, have comprehensive conversations, and read books.
For example, we see Jack reading “Alice in Wonderland” and having serious conversations with his mother, like when she tells him there is an outside world that he does not know about and that things are not always what they seem. One scene that stood out to me was the scene where Ma gets mad at Jack for constantly watching shows and playing on the phone because she did not think he would develop the right social skills. She forced him to play with the toys that had been donated for him saying that most kids would be lucky to have all of those. Towards the end of the movie, we see Jack playing with his neighbor.
This proves to us, that even though Jack grew up with little to no outside social skills, he was still able to make friends and will most likely develop more social skills, as he grows older. I have mixed feelings about this film. I thought it was really good, but there were definitely areas that could have been worked on. The first half of the movie was very engaging, but the second half slowed down a lot and caused a loss of interest on my part. Overall, I would recommend this movie, but include the caution that I though it was overly slow towards the end.