Frances Winston found Room to be as heart-warming as it was harrowing, and feels this film, based on a book by Emma Donoghue, deserves all the praise it has received
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson – Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, William H. Macy
Adapted by author Emma Donoghue from her award-winning hit novel of the same name, Room is a movie that could have gone horribly wrong. The novel was almost claustrophobic in its intensity, not something you necessarily want to pass on to an audience in a movie-theatre setting. In the hands of the wrong director and cast, this could have been a hot mess. Thankfully, a wonderful team was assembled, ensuring that this is a cinematic treat.
Larson plays Joy, who was kidnapped as a 17-year-old, and who now resides in a tiny room with her son Jack. Containing only the bare necessities, they are both at the mercy of her captor, whom they rely on for food and utilities.
Jack is oblivious to their situation, but when he turns five, Joy decides to tell him the truth about her life before “room”. Explaining that there is a bigger world than just the room, she trains Jack to play dead, so that her captor will remove his body, giving him the chance to raise the alarm and set them both free.
However, when this is successful, it proves to be only half the battle, as Joy must try to assimilate back into her old life, while Jack must adjust to a world that he never knew existed.
Room deals with many sensitive subjects, and it would have been very easy to sensationalise these aspects, but Abrahamson resists that temptation. He is helped in no small part by a wonderfully layered performance from Larson, as she maintains a cheerful façade for her son, while dying a little bit inside every day.
Tremblay is a revelation as Jack. His performance never feels forced or contrived, and he performs some very heavy scenes as if they were second nature to him. The chemistry and relationship between the pair are at the heart of this movie, and it is a joy to watch. Even in the confines of their prison, they have a love and affection that shines through the screen.
Given that we initially meet them in captivity, Room could have become very boring very quickly due to the lack of action, but it trots along at a good pace, and never feels staid or boring. This is partly due to the complexity of the story. There is always far more going on than it appears, and this movie really draws you in, running you through the gamut of emotions.
Room goes from harrowing to heart-warming in a split-second, and the whole movie is incredibly moving. The story has probably been lent credibility by recent reports of similar kidnappings. While it’s scary to think that we now accept that this happens, it does help lessen the sense of the outlandish that could easily have marred this tale.
With Jack the main focus of the story, you never really get a proper sense of how traumatised Joy is, but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of this film, and indeed probably would have made extremely uncomfortable viewing for some people if it had featured.
Room is yet another movie that relies on a decent narrative and strong performances, rather than effects and sleight-of-hand, and it is all the better for it. A wonderful film that should be seen by anyone who wants to be truly moved, this deserves all the accolades and praise it has been receiving.
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