Room will both scare you and make you cry. It is the best movie I’ve seen this year.
From a description of Room, as a story about a mom locked in a room with her child, I expected allegoric fantasy or over-the-top horror, like Saw. Neither of those expectations came close to this movie’s genre. It is two movies in one.
The first movie is a tense thriller about an abducted teenager, played by Brie Larson (Trainwreck, The Gambler), locked in a 10 by 10 sound-proof garden shed as a sex slave for seven years. She finally has an idea of how to escape with her five year old child, Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay (The Smurfs 2). The second movie is a psychological study of the effects of abduction, rape, and social and sensory deprivation on its direct and indirect victims. Both stories will grab you.
The film includes an all-star supporting cast. Joan Allen (Nixon, The Ice Storm) plays Jack’s grandmother. William H. Macy (Fargo, Boogie Nights) plays his grandfather. Tom McCamus, an award winning stage actor, plays grandmother’s new boyfriend. Sean Bridgers (Deadwood, Sweet Home Alabama) plays the kidnapper.
Room opens as Jack wakes up to his fifth birthday. He has never been outside the shed or felt the wind or the rain. His knowledge of the world has come from his mother, the television, and a skylight at the top of the shed. Jack calls the shed “room” and the only real people he has ever seen are his mother and the man, Old Nick, who holds them prisoner. When Old Nick visits to abuse Jack’s mother, Jack must hide in a wardrobe. As Jack begins to be more assertive, his mom realizes he is now old enough to help her hatch a plot to escape.
Given that sensationalist set up, one might think that the movie is prurient. It isn’t. It revolves around Jack’s relationship with his mother and the effects of growing up in a shed. It also explores what happens to the psyches of people who have a teenage daughter mysteriously disappear.
The acting in the film is absolutely Oscar quality. Larson’s portrayal of Jack’s mother is amazing. The mother is initially a victim who never gives in to self-pity. She loves Jack, and tries to educate him and provide him with an understanding of life, as best she can from their prison. Later, self-doubt takes her in a totally different direction. I’m certain this is the high-point of Larson’s career, so far.
Jacob Tremblay’s portrayal of Jack is the most memorable child actor performance I’ve seen since Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. Growing up in a shed has not left Jack unscarred. Tremblay executes this character with screams, kisses, tears, and laughter in a manner way beyond his years. His narration, as his innocence and naiveté tries to make sense of the world and deal with adults with problems, is charming and gives the film little touches of humor that make what is otherwise a depressing, heart-rending journey bearable.
Joan Allen brings the grandmother to life in a sympathetic manner. She has split from her husband, but desperately wants to reconnect with her daughter and grandson. Her journey could have been a film in itself.
In its totality, Room is not like any other movie I have seen before. We have two Dubliners to thank for this exceptional work. Emma Donoghue adapted the screenplay from her international bestselling novel, Room. It was directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, What Richard Did).
Room is rated “R” for language. It opens in LA and New York on October 16 and nationwide in November. The trailer is posted below.
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