Got your Kleenex handy? Powerful performances and a superb screenplay find the hopeful inside the horrible in Lenny Abrahamson’s new film, Room.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Kidnapped at the age of 17 and held against her will in a small shed with only a square skylight with which to see the sun, Joy (Brie Larson) has lost the better part of a decade to her captor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). During her imprisonment, Joy has reluctantly fathered his child – Jack (Jacob Tremblay) – and done her best to care for the infant in a room barely big enough to swing a cat. Now on the eve of celebrating Jack’s fifth birthday, Joy realises that she can’t shield her son from the horror of their situation any longer, and begins to formulate a plan to reunite them with the outside world.
It’s a premise that might sound unbearably miserable at first, but don’t despair – a deft adaptation from author/screenwriter Emma Donoghue somehow navigates through this austere situation to construct an abnormally uplifting and powerful film that is more hopeful than horrible. Joy and Jack’s dingy entrapment is only Act 1 in a journey that will leave you feeling buoyed and inspired rather than sombre and defeated.
Much of this can be accredited to the joint work of its two leads, Larson and Tremblay. Both are currently on the receiving end of glowing appraisals and it’s easy to see why. Larson, whose steady career trajectory has seen her graduate from trendy comic-book adaptations (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and raunchy Judd Apatow comedies (Trainwreck), delivers a gut-wrenching performance unlike any you’ll see from an actress in a long while.
Larson somehow reaches inward to plumb depths of inner solitude that few actresses could replicate; it’s a disturbing and triumphant performance that is brimming with depth and complexity. Even in her quieter moments, the viewer can understand absolutely everything Joy is going through – it’s almost as though Larson has a perspex window on her forehead through which we can view her every thought. Fear, anger, depression, rage, frustration, euphoria, and bewilderment – Larson touches on everything across the 118-minute runtime, catapulting herself to the forefront of the Oscar race in the process. Even against strong competition like Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett, the Oscar for Best Actress is hers to lose.
She doesn’t do everything on her own though; Tremblay’s fearless performance isn’t just one of the best child performances we’ve seen in years, it’s possibly one of the greatest of all time. I don’t think it’s undue hyperbole to rate him alongside notable examples like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense or Henry Thomas in E.T: The Extra Terrestrial; he really is that good.
He shows immense emotional intelligence in the role, despite only being 7-years-old at the time of filming. We view most of the film through his eyes, which fills even the most banal objects with wide-eyed wonderment; whether it’s his daily routine of bidding goodnight to the sink or feeling the wind on his face for the first time, Tremblay’s touching performance is the welcome source of levity and joy amongst such dark themes in Room.
Whether you sob along with Larson or delight at the discovery Tremblay enjoys, Room is a film that promises to leave no one unmoved.
Room is available in Australian cinemas from January 28th
Images courtesy of Roadshow Films