FILM REVIEW - ROOM
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen.
Never falls back on cynical emotional manipulation.
Ma (Brie Larson) has been held prisoner by a man called “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers) for seven years. She is held in a ten-foot-square soundproofed shed that she shares with her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). While Ma is very much a prisoner, Jack was born in captivity and the contents of “room” constitutes is his entire existence. But Jack’s universe is not confined by the four walls. His imagination is limitless, and whatever Ma can’t explain (trees, nature, other people) exists “only in TV.” Jack’s world is reassuringly simple. But when there is a sudden change in their situation, both Ma and Jack struggle to face the challenges of the outside world.
In spite of the horrific overtones of this synopsis, at its core, Room is about the bond between a mother and her child. In the most hopeless of circumstances, Ma’s primary focus is always on Jack’s happiness. The abject horror and hopelessness of their situation is mitigated by viewing events through the eyes of a child.
It is perfectly cast. Larson is already getting a fair amount of praise for her performance – and rightly so, she is terrific – but Tremblay is simply superb. Watching the five-year-old performing acts as simple as negotiating stairs or petting a dog for the first time is utterly authentic. His is one of the finest performances I can recall from an actor of any age.
Room is Lenny Abrahamson’s fifth film, and he is still a director hard to pin down. He adapts his style with each film – moving from the blackest of comedies to Irish gothic and back – the only common denominator being a focus on story and character. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, Room could easily have turned into a schmaltzy narrative of triumph over adversity and redemption, but the director never falls back on cynical emotional manipulation. Abrahamson is to be commended. It’s wonderful stuff with strong performances and a gripping story.