Room: Film Review
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H Macy
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Director Lenny Abrahamson and author Emma Donoghue's Room explores how life and overt circumstance makes captives of us all in this breath-taking and emotionally wrenching adaptation of her Man Booker Prize winning tome.
Trapped in the titular room, Jacob Temblay's Jack is on the cusp of turning five and opening up his perception of life to something more than the drab reality of the walls that entrench the pair because Ma (Brie Larson, so radiant and stoic in Short Term 12) decides to reveal the truth of room.
Daily routines remind of tales of Josef Fritzl and of doco The Wolfpack (in fact, it can be no coincidence Jack's tresses are as long as those NYC brethren kept within) but for Brie Larson's Joy enough is enough and after seven long years, it is time to escape.
But, with closely framed shots and POV shots of Jack (no doubt to keep the book's young protagonist's central viewpoint), this is no score-blasting, heart-pumping rush for freedom, this cinematic tale is a sickening edge of your seat set-up with taut directing guaranteed to leave you with a knot in your stomach as it plays out.
However, much more than that, Room is actually a story of the lengths a mother will go to for her daughter and what love will do to make the world a better place.
Which is perhaps just as well, given how harrowing the film's subject matter is and how easy it would be to dive down that rabbit hole and never surface. There's an implied dark side of Ma's captivity and it's briefly touched on, but lurks repugnantly in the background with Ma's scenes with her father (William H Macy, who appears all too briefly and who adds a lot via a subtly heart-breaking turn).
And while the occasional over-use of Jack's voiceover teeters dangerously close to grating (and channels Karel Fialka's Hey Matthew's youngster), it is down to both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay that Lenny Abrahamson's Room soars from beyond its four-walled compounds and constraints.
It helps the director is able to choreograph the room in different ways that give you a different take on the space each time and the camera's masterfully employed at all times conveying both the claustrophobia and the hope that Ma's swathed Jack in. It speaks to the strength of the adaptation that the film is one of two halves and while the first half is more powerful, the second lacks none of the resonance it needs.
But Room is nothing without both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.
Channeling both a vulnerability and a strength, Larson is intoxicating from beginning to end as this initially harrowing chamber piece expands its scope beyond its walls. Spinning around her is Tremblay's Jack and it's no wonder that accolades are piling up with this child, as he manages to carry the film and instill the audiences with a sense of hope that's needed to get through the wrench of the darkness.
There's no denying that Room is heart-stopping cinema - it's edge of your seat drama, both heart in mouth sickening and an emotional gut punch. But thanks to its actors, it's more than a drama that demands a lot of its audience; it provides a cinematic ride that's as richly rewarding as it is emotionally exhausting.