With just over a month to go until the 88th annual Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, the stream of movies with multiple nominations is still strong and steady, with the latest to grace my theatre going experience being Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, a big screen adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel of the same name and I film that I had been extremely excited about seeing ever since seeing the trailer some months ago. With the warning that it would be a tough and at times harrowing watch, I want in with high expectations both in terms of quality and in terms of tear count.
Room tells the story of a five year old boy named Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who along with his mother Joy (Brie Larson) lives in the confinement of a small room containing a bed, a sink, a toilet, a table and a food counter. The audience come to learn very quickly that Joy was kidnapped as a 17 year old and has spent the last nine years being held captive by the man, known only as Old Nick, who took her all those years ago, with Jack being a product of his rape. Never having known the outside world and with only a small skylight to give him reference of something more, Jack has a very stunted perception of what his existence is, but shortly after his fifth birthday, with Joy fearing for their lives after the news that Old Nick’s unemployment status might see his house go in to foreclosure, both Jack’s and Joy’s lives take a drastic and dramatic turn when they attempt a daring escape to free themselves of their captivity. I won’t discuss any more of the plot specifics because I feel that knowing as little as possible upon seeing this film adds infinitely to it’s emotional impact, and boy, what an impact that is! As a society, we are somewhat morbidly obsessed with these cases of kidnapping that are unveiled many years later, but what Room does incredibly effectively is turn the tables on our involvement with such cases, forcing us to experience the sheer mental devastation and catastrophic butterfly effect that can be caused not only to Joy and Jack but also to family members who have lived in uncertainty for all that time. The film is utterly harrowing, but what has been so perfectly executed is that the bulk of the narrative is focused from young Jack’s perspective, so the audience, whilst realising from mature experience that this situation is horrific, are shown the events through somewhat tinted spectacles because Jack’s innocence overrides any preconceptions that we might have. Importantly, alongside the horrifying nature of the narrative situation, the film is peppered with brief glimpses of happiness, the happiness that Jack and Joy find within one another, and strangely, amongst all of the sorrow, you find yourself being somewhat inspired by the film and it’s characters.
With the majority of the film being made up of exchanges between Jack and Joy, it was vital that the filmmakers find an acting duo that could carry the emotional and dramatic weight of the narrative, and wow, they certainly did. As Joy, Brie Larson gives a wonderfully deep performance, having to essentially act the parts of two different characters, one who is completely aware and in touch with her desperate situation, and another who has to constantly put on a show of relative normality for her essentially oblivious son. As the wheels of the plot progress, we get to see several different sides of Joy’s character, and Larson masters each and every development with complete ease. In my opinion, she is the front runner to be picking up the Best Actress Oscar in late February. Now to say that somebody who I just proclaimed the probable winner of an Academy Award isn’t even the best actor in the film would be a bold statement, but this is certainly the case with young Jacob Tremblay who I think gives one of the single greatest performances by a child actor that I have ever seen. To remind yourself that this actor is only nine years old as you watch the incredible depth of performance that he gives is nothing short of sensational. I would wager that Tremblay has more screen time that any other actor in the picture, and for such a young performer to hold the reigns of such an adult film for so long is extraordinary. I pray that this young actor’s skills stay with him as he grows, because if he is still performing to this standard as an adult, we are in for something truly special for many years to come.
Overall, Room is a gripping, intense, heart wrenching drama that not only throws the audience in to a world that they could never dream of, but it also displays one of the most endearing and unusual mother/child bonds I have seen in film. The sheer subject matter and heavy themes mean that it will not be one to watch again and again and again, but Room is absolutely a picture that you have to see. Essential viewing and even though it is one my first films of 2016, I am in no doubt that it will be appearing on my top ten list at the end of the year.