Room is unlike any films I have experienced this year. Very few will be as effective or pack a bigger emotional punch. And it achieves that with restraints and without the usual technical wizardry that is common in movies these days. The main characters are a five-year-old boy, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), and his mom, Joy (Brie Larson), both living in a small single room. They have all they need: food, a fridge, a stove, a TV and a small window in the ceiling. That’s the only “outside world” Jack has ever seen. That’s because Joy was abducted and has been locked in “room” for seven years. Jack was born from one of the rapes. The only person beside Joy Jack ever sees is Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), his mom’s rapist who comes to have sex with Joy while Jack sleeps. But other than furtive glances, there are no connections between Jack and Old Nick. When Joy suspects that Old Nick might kill them, she plans an escape for her son. Without spoiling things, I will tell you that there were heart pounding moments that I found almost unbearable. The second part of Room is about Jack discovering a world he did not even imagined existed. He can’t even speak to strangers. When Jack asks a question to other people, he whispers it in his mother’s ear. He doesn’t know how to use stairs. At first, her mother, Nancy (Joan Allen), her father, Robert (William H. Macy), and her mother’s partner, Leo (Tom McCamus), are all happy to discover that Joy was alive after all these years. But Jack is lost in all that hysteria. And the media frenzy that follows does not help. After an interview by an intrusive reporter (Wendy Crewson), Joy has a mental breakdown. Room is perfection. I want to celebrate Emma Donaghue’s beautiful and restrained screenplay. Donoghue (adapting her own novel) uses restraints and delicate dialogue rather than bombastic drama and histrionics. I would describe Lenny Abrahamson’s direction as fine tuning. He has carefully chosen to take a different rhythm and approach for every scenes. Room is a character and story-based emotional roller coaster. The level of difficulty is quite amazing, and I must say that I don’t think anybody could have done a better job than Abrahamson. But it is Larson and Tremblay that makes it such a powerhouse. At only 26, Brie Larson shows gutsy, instinctive acting skills. Her approach to Joy is fittingly from the guts , as if her life depended on it. Like the film, she is perfect. Jacob Tremblay actually carries Room on his small shoulders. He is in every scenes. Later, for quite a while, Joy is away and Jack is alone with his grandmother. I remember seeing Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the southern wild and thinking “Move over Meryl Streep!” Like Wallis did, Tremblay’s Jack becomes a beautiful and powerful hero. Our hero. I think there is a good chance we will see both actors come Oscar time. And, of course, the film itself. Will I see a better film this year? I highly doubt it.
You should know… Emma Donaghue’s inspiration was the Fritzl case. In Austria in 2008 police found that a 42-year-old woman, Elisabeth Fritzl, had been held captive for 24 years in a concealed corridor part of the basement area of the large family house by her father, Josef Fritzl. The abuse by her father resulted in the birth of seven children and one miscarriage. Four of the children joined their mother in captivity, and three were raised by Josef and his wife, Rosemary, who did not know of her daughter’s captivity. The youngest child was Felix, 5 years-old.
And the Oscar went to… I was happy when Brie Larson won. Jacob Tremblay was there to give the award to Live action short subject. After her win, Larson was backstage and she hugged all the victims of sexual abuse at University there take part in The hunting ground song with Lady Gaga.
Based on her own novel
William H. Macy