Despite supporting roles in films such as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and 21 Jump Street, Brie Larson wasn’t a big name in Hollywood until early this year, when she beat strong competition to win the Best Actress Oscar for Room. With the amount of films out around awards season, however, it’s possible you missed this indie drama from Frank director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue – thankfully, it’s now available on DVD.
Based on Donoghue’s novel, itself inspired by the Josef Fritzl case, Room doesn’t have the most cheery of concepts – Larson plays Joy “Ma” Newsome, who was abducted at seventeen and now lives in a squalid shed as a sex slave to Old Nick (Bridgers). But the film rightfully doesn’t linger too long on Nick’s abuse of Joy, rightfully refusing to give reasons for the captor’s actions or even to show his face for longer than is necessary. Instead it’s told from the perspective of Jack (Tremblay), Joy’s son – and Nick’s too, though she refuses to let the five-year-old see Nick as a father. Jack believes that their home, ‘Room’, is all there is. The people on TV are magic, and the blue through the skylight is Space. Jack and his Ma do daily exercises, bake birthday cakes, and get on with life in Room. Sometimes they scream to the aliens together, but none have ever responded. It’s all routine. And then one day, Joy decides it’s time to tell Jack the truth about ‘The World’.
It’s not too much of a spoiler (hey, it’s on the poster) to reveal that, at some point in the film, Joy and Jack escape Room – and the sequence in which they do is knuckle-chewingly tense. Life in The World isn’t easy, though – having never known anywhere but Room, Jack finds himself overwhelmed by the onslaught of new people and places, while the pressure of helping him adjust takes its toll on Joy, as do awkward family reunions and the prying media.
Yes, Room can be a tough watch. But it’s never grim for long, balancing the horrors of Joy’s ordeal with the, well, joy of Jack’s curiosity and readjustment. The emotional ups and downs are numerous, yet perfectly handled by Donoghue’s touching script and Abrahamson’s sensitive direction. The performances are flawless, too; while Larson’s Oscar was well deserved, Room is Jack’s story, and Jacob Tremblay is that rare thing – a child actor who convinces with a full range of emotions and hits all the right notes. He was eight when this was shot. Eight!
Room isn’t easy teatime viewing, but it is a stunning film that takes a horrific yet all-too-believable crime and gives the victims a voice. It’s tough but ultimately uplifting. If you missed it in cinemas, pick up the DVD.
Extras: Featurettes / Commentary
ROOM / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: LENNY ABRAHAMSON / SCREENPLAY: EMMA DONOGHUE / STARRING: BRIE LARSON, JACOB TREMBLAY, JOAN ALLEN, SEAN BRIDGERS, WILLIAM H. MACY / RELEASE DATE: MAY 9TH