Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Tom McCamus, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Emotion is always a tricky one to master. Try to slash at your audience’s sentiments, constantly reaching down and ripping them straight from their guts and run the risk of desensitising. Too subtle and the point can easily veer off target. The sweet spot, dipping in and out of the emotions pot at precise instances is possible but rarely achieved. From the first minute of Room it’s apparent that emotion is going to be high on its agenda, and thankfully it achieves this wonderfully.
Based on Emma Donoghue’s best seller, Room shows Ma (Larson) living with her son Jack (Tremblay) in a small windowless room. We soon find out that Ma has been living in Room for seven years since being kidnapped and endures systematic daily rapes by a man only known as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), five-year-old Jack being the unexpected product of this torment. To protect her son, Ma has explained to him that only Room exists and everything beyond the door is outer space, the projections on their TV made on TV planets far away and only Old Nick can bring them supplies with his magic.
Make no bones about it, Room has enough emotion involved to leave you gasping for a Crocodile Dundee dose by the end but its trick is in its delivery. It’s not the horror of the situation which shocks, but the accepted normalcy of it. The ordinary in the outrageous. This is Jacks world and he accepts it, Ma’s world is protecting her son as best she can. Larson’s performance pivots perfectly between the all-protective mother and the terrified girl shockingly torn from her teenage life, and at no point does she seem improbable.
Tremblay puts in an astonishing yet effortless performance and one which many a more seasoned player would treasure. His fascination with the mundane and the acceptance of the shockingly extreme never feels forced nor does it wear thin.
Room is roughly split into two parts. The first establishes Ma and Jack’s existence in Room; their daily routine; exercise, washing, arguments, cuddles, watching TV, cooking, Jack’s first birthday cake. On occasion it is almost possible to forget they are held captive until Old Nick visits after Jack’s bedtime. It’s the second half however when Room starts to triumph. Following their successful escape from Room, the story follows mother and child’s attempt at guiding themselves back into life outside Room. Ma’s difficulty in slotting back into normal life, Jack’s sudden requirement to talk to others, Ma’s father’s (Grace) inability to accept his grandson as the son of his daughter’s abductor. Allen is perfectly cast as Ma’s mother, showing patience and testing reserved emotion as Jack talks offhandedly about life in Room. Jack’s slow, awkward and often painful integration into his new world is perfectly paced and ultimately fabulously satisfying.
Room is a rare treat, a very tricky but perfectly handled storyline, wonderfully cast and with just enough talons gripped to the heartstrings throughout to keep the emotions running high.
8 / 10