After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery.
Based on a best selling novel, ‘Room’ is a richly crafted drama elevated by two outstanding central performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Set in the titular ‘room’, the film introduces us to 5 year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his mother, Ma (Brie Larson), who live in a small, crowded room with no windows (beyond a skylight). It becomes apparent early on that they are the captive of a man they call Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) who lured Ma into his house under false pretences. Now that Jack is 5, Ma puts together a plan to escape. The film is adapted from the novel by Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the film’s screenplay) but it could easily be a true story based on some of the high profile kidnapping cases of recent times.
The film takes its time introducing us to Jack and Ma and their environment, and it doesn’t shy away from depicting the darkest aspects of their capture. Ma is a pillar of strength throughout as she tries to shield Jack from the reality of their situation whilst suffering the worst of Old Nick’s temperament, and Brie Larson is absolutely terrific at portraying conflicting emotions. Larson is an actress who has been poised to hit the big time for a number of years now, and whilst she received some awards attention for her heartbreaking turn in ‘Short Term 12’, ‘Room’ is likely to take her several steps further. As Jack, Jacob Tremblay delivers one of the great child performances with a natural display that fully convinces. Both Larson and Tremblay are phenomenal and the bond between the two is tender and moving.
We actually spend less time in ‘room’ than I had expected and that’s undoubtedly for the best. The film is relentlessly bleak to begin with, but perhaps to appreciate the light we have to see the darkness, and ‘Room’ ultimately manages to be uplifting against all odds. The performances are a large part of that, but I also found a lot to love about Lenny Abrahamson’s excellent direction. He uses quick cuts, different angles and a combination of styles to really put you into the room with Ma and Jack, making it look bigger from Jack’s vantage point, and showing the reality through Ma’s. It’s one of the finest recent examples of depicting a child’s viewpoint and his work, alongside editor Nathan Nugent, deserves recognition. ‘Room’ continues to be compelling outside of its initial setting as we watch both Jack and Ma try to adjust to the wider world, with Larson and Tremblay’s performances losing none of their power.
‘Room’ is difficult to watch at times, but its earnest performances and strong craftsmanship make this film a truly rewarding experience and I highly recommend it.
Directed By: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus and Sean Bridgers