Every bit as terrifying as The Silence of the Lambs, and as moving as Sophie’s Choice, Room is a beautiful, terrifying, touching, gripping film with powerhouse performances and a knot tight poetic script. Room will keep viewers delving into complex questions and ideas for days after viewing. Based on a best-selling novel by the same name, the story has a compelling surface, a woman is kidnapped at the age of 17 and is trapped in a closet sized room for years. Over that time she is abused sexually, mentally and lives in a neglected state. A few years into her terror, she realizes that she is pregnant and the revelation gives her new hope for life.
We meet the mother, Ma (Brie Larson) and son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) when he is five years old. He loves his space and although he has access to a television, he has no other contact with the outside world. Room is his world and he feels no neglect or longing for anything besides being with Ma. Ma creates a plan for them to escape that involves a harrowing experience for the audience. We watch Jack play dead knowing that by doing so he is putting his life in jeopardy. As seen in the trailer, they do escape and their re-assimilation to life outside of Room is just as thrilling, sad and bittersweet as their life in Room.
I have rarely witnessed a performance as layered, intense at peek times and nuanced at unexpected times as that of Brie Larson as Ma/Joy. Audience members are given a deep dive into her world and she doesn’t hold anything back. The horror of losing your youth, your college years and your health for reasons beyond your control is nothing short of tragic and the death of spirit and stunted growth of corners of her soul is visible. The depth of Ma’s character is intensified because she never gives in to her loss and longing, she stays kind, patient and nurturing to Jack.
It’s rare to find a child lead who can hold up next to a smoldering talent like Larson’s. Jacob Tremblay not only holds his own with Larson, but he feeds off of her. Their chemistry is enviable and impacts the intensity of their love, fear, confusion and anger.
The entire supporting cast is phenomenal. Joan Allen has some of the most memorable scenes in the film playing Nancy, Jack’s grandmother, Joy’s mother. Her comfort on the screen and in her character sets the tempo for the second half of the film. Equally as moving, and unforgivably cold is William H. Macy‘s portrayal of Jack’s grandpa, Joy’s father. The reaction of his daughter’s and grandson’s return is heart breaking but unfortunately very realistic and becomes one of the main topics that viewers will likely have rattle through their minds long after they have left the theater.
The visuals of the film themselves are not its strong suit. One can’t help but wonder if a more crisp print would have lifted the film to the state of perfection. That said the grainy quality of the film does fit into the dirty and dreadful situation that our characters find themselves in throughout most of the piece.
For viewers who enjoy a compelling and challenging story, who can handle an intense level of tension and who appreciate in depth character studies, this film is an absolute must. This is a career breakthrough moment for Brie Larson and is likely to be remembered at the time of Academy Award Nominations.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writer: Emma Donoghue
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy
Runtime: 118 minutes
Release date: November 13, 2015 (in Houston)