Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen
Each year there is a little film that creeps out of nowhere and completely takes hold of the modern lexicon of cinema. These indies become the little darlings of the awards season and even, sometimes, reign supreme in the end. This year, that title and acclaim goes to Lenny Abrahamson's powerful and emotionally affecting Room, based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue.
The setting is simple: a room in a shed in a backyard in smalltown America. Ma is a young woman wrestling between her own sanity and her strong willpower. Jack is a young boy whose only experience in the world is this place known affectionately as Room. The four walls are the pillars of captivity. Kidnapped when she was 17, Ma (played with full force by Brie Larson) has come to know this place as her home for some seven years. In that time, she has experienced the roller coaster of emotions involved with kidnap, rape, and motherhood. Jack (newcomer Jacob Tremblay) is now 5 and is in the midst of mentally grasping the ideas of the outside world, something he only knows from watching television and fun stories told by Ma. When the two collaborate on an incredible plan of escape, which works, new challenges of a life outside Room become meddlesome and joyous.
Room is, at first, a brilliant show of creeping thrills and extraordinary drama. Abrahamson's choices in showcasing the vastness of such a small space, mentally and physically, help put you in the crazed mindset of two prisoners who have the will to live. Gradually building, Room inches slowly into the perfect commentary on family and love and living beyond a past riddled with pain.
The testament to the success of this story is in the casting. Larson has never been better than as the pivotal mother who puts her own worries aside to provide the most honest and grounded life she can provide for her son. Ma has a strict schedule for Jack, including limited television time, consistent bath times, chores, and even recreational activities. Jack, like all kids, seemed neither phased nor bothered by his surroundings, mostly because this is all he knows. Tremblay, currently the spry age of 8, is captivating as the young child justly dealing with growing pains and ultimate terror/wonder as he steps out into a world in which he's never been.
Donoghue, who adapted the screenplay based on her own book, meshes well with Abrahamson's vision, creating a story rich in intellect, never bowing to cliches for dramatic effect, and shot beautifully. Room is every bit the calibre you'd expect of a prestige film, despite being small in stature.
Currently in limited release, this is one of the year's only must-see films. It hits you from the start, but the burn of each element is felt long after the credits role. It's been a while since I've left the theatre feeling so overwhelmed. Do what you can to see this film. You won't be disappointed.
Runtime: 118 minutes