If you need to be reassured that "love conquers all", then Lenny Abrahamson's "Room" is the film for you. Of course, this old adage would seem more suited to a corny "Hallmark" movie. But this Brie Larson-starrer takes on poignant meaning through its sensitive, affecting filmmaking.
Larson plays Joy, mother to a little boy named Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Despite her name, feelings of elation are hard to come by. She and her son have been confined to a room for years, held captive by a man who kidnapped her 7 years ago. Under the harsh circumstances, she makes the best of the situation, ensuring that Jack feels safe and comfortable. She convinces him that the outside world is not real, and that Old Nick (their kidnapper) is a friendly man who kindly provides them with their daily needs. But when Jack's 5th birthday arrives, she decides it's the right time to finally tell him the truth, in the hopes of hatching an escape plan to return to the world that beckons from their skylight.
Based on Emma Donoghue's adaptation of her own novel, Lenny Abrahamson takes her horrifying ripped from the headlines premise and brings it right where you live, knocking on the door to your heart. "Room" is immediately empathetic, framed from the perspective of the endearing young boy named Jack. Born as the product of a sociopath and an innocent victim, he could have been a "bad seed" of sorts. But our introduction to the character shows a regular child like we all were, blissfully ignorant of the abnormality of his life.
And Tremblay is truly remarkable in the role, with a piercing glare and actorly awareness that could make him a future star. Alongside an equally terrific Brie Larson, they convey a genuine mother-son relationship, as every acting beat feels informed by the love they share. Working with Donaghue's emotionally resonant dialogue, it comes as no surprise that both actors have developed a close relationship in real life. Indeed, for a debut screenwriter, Donoghue has an impressive understanding of how to portray the intricacies of human relationships, which allows this often unbelievable story to suspend all disbelief. Throughout each plot turn it asks you, what would you do for someone you love?
In answering that question, the film is absolutely gripping from start to finish. And that's helped in no small part by the film's incredible pacing. Through Nathan Nugent's masterclass in "invisible" editing, "Room" manages to feel like the shortest film of the year.
Ironically, the tremendous pacing ended up being the film's biggest drawback for me. Perhaps I'm just nit-picking, but it ultimately felt a bit too lean and neat. Especially in the latter half when Joy attempts to assimilate into her family - which itself was significantly affected by her kidnapping - I wanted more of the messiness that comes with the trauma of her ordeal. I wish the film left more room (pun intended) to explore the other relationships and characters - like the brilliant Joan Allen, who is almost wasted as Joy's mother - that are revealed at the end of the film.
In essence, "Room" gave me everything but the kitchen sink (i.e. kitchen sink drama). Though I was satisfied with what came before, the ending still left me with an intense craving for more from these characters and their story. Indeed, for Joy and Jack, life is just beginning. Likewise, the film left me with a feeling of a world of possibilities still waiting to be explored.
Most persons will likely be bowled over by "Room" however, which will put it in a good position for Oscar attention. At this point, Brie Larson and Emma Donoghue seem like no-brainers for Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay respectively. The only question that remains is whether they will bring along Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Editing nods in their coattails.