My classmate, Fr. Kevin, loves movies as much as I love golf. At the Chrism mass on Thursday, he told me I HAVE to see a movie called ROOM. It was one of the films nominated for Best Picture this year. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS FILM. (and for those who do not like spoilers, I invite you to leave the church now)
The film begins on Jack’s fifth birthday. He wakes up and says “Good Morning” to all the objects in the room, a chair, a table, a closet, a toilet, a bathtub, a TV. He wakes his mother and they begin to make Jack’s birthday cake. Immediately, you sense that something is not right. And it isn’t. Jack’s mother is a kidnapped young woman. She has been held in sound proofed shed for the last seven years against her will. And Jack is five years old. When you do the math, you figure out what is going on. The mother has tried to create a loving environment in the cramped shed. She tells him stories; the Biblical story of Samson is one of his favorites. She shields him when her kidnapper enters their space, telling him to stay in the closet until he is gone. She has created a world, a world of love within the small space.
But Jack’s fifth birthday is a turning point. His mother begins to explain to him that the world is bigger than what he sees in the room, or what he watches on their TV. At first, Jack is angry. He accuses his mother of lying. Why would they stay in the room if there was a bigger world? Why would she deny him that? There is no other world, it’s not true! But at long last, she convinces him that he needs to do something, something that will change their lives.
At first, she tells her captor that Jack is sick and needs to go to the hospital. He doesn’t buy it. Plan B. She tells Jack what her real name is and what to tell others. She teaches Jack how to stay stiff and still in the carpet. Then she teaches him how to roll out of the carpet that is in the shed. Roll, Jack, roll. She then rolls him in the carpet and tells her kidnapper that Jack died in the night.
The man puts Jack, rolled up in the old carpet in the back of his pickup truck, and he drives away, presumably to bury his body, the evidence of his crime. As the truck drives along the streets of the town, Jack begins to roll. It is a titanic struggle. As you are watching the film, you begin to rock back in forth trying to help Jack escape. Finally, after what feels like forever, Jack rolls out of the carpet, and for the first time in his young life, sees the wide open sky. Jack freezes. It is almost too much to process. Everything he knew, everything he believed, everything he thought was real, explodes. The world is not a single room, his mother didn’t lie. Like a butterfly bursting out of his cocoon, Jack finds a life he never knew before – beckoning.
To make a long story short (and further ruin the movie for you), Jack does jump out of the truck and run, he does find help and save his mother. But that is only halfway through the film, so there is still some story I haven’t ruined, yet.
Kevin remarked: “I have never seen a better symbol of the resurrection in my life.” What we celebrate this Easter is the fact that Jesus opens up a new world, a new life for all of us. Jesus helps us to see that our cramped little existence is not the whole story of our lives, there is a big bright wide sky to see. Our celebration of Easter reminds us that when sin has kidnapped our souls, has forced us into a restricted room, a confined space; when we think that what we have around us is all there is and all there could ever be – we are to trust there is more, live into the promise there is more, and find the fullness of the resurrected life. By breaking free from the tomb, Jesus demonstrates that life is more than just a limited existence. That is what we rejoice in today.
And when we truly believe this, it changes everything,[at Easter Vigil: It washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy. casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride] especially how we treat one another. There is another scene in the movie. Jack’s hair had never been cut. The kidnapper obvious did not trust Jack’s mother with anything sharp. When they return to the real world, Jack’s mother has a difficult adjustment. She feels guilty for being kidnapped. She feels guilty for not trying to escape earlier. She even feels a bit guilty about Jack’s very existence. She attempts suicide, and is taken to the hospital. While she is gone, Jack tells his newly discovered grandmother that he wants to get his hair cut. When she asks why, he reminds her of the story of Samson from the Bible. “I want to give her some of my strong,” he says.
We live in a world of victims and victimizers. We live in a world where people are forced to live or choose to live restricted, small, closed lives. Easter calls us to know we have been made for more and we are called to share that more, to give the world some of our strong. Happy Easter!