Country: Canada, Ireland
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writer: Emma Donoghue
Music: Stephen Rennicks
Cinematography: Danny Cohen
William H. Macy
A Canada-Irish co-production from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, the follow-up of his kooky psychodrama FRANK (2014). It wins Brie Larson a coveted Oscar for BEST LEADING ACTRESS, but the real backbone of this bracing indie drama is its 9-year-old child genius Jacob Tremblay.
Joy (Larson), is captured by a man she calls Old Nick (Bridgers) 7 years ago, as his sex slave, she is locked inside a room with only a skylight above, and she gives birth to a son named Jack (Tremblay). Now Jack is five years old, he has never been outside the room, and Joy hatches a daring escape plan which puts Jack at the mercy of his luck, but it seems to be their only chance to get out of the living hell.
The first hour (before Joy’s plan) is entirely shot inside the room, a small shed, Abrahamson has done a phenomenal job to circumvent the claustrophobic setting and elicited an exceptional two-hander between Larson and Tremblay, especially the latter, who is born under such a unique situation, which makes his view of life worlds apart from our common sense and himself a perfect focus point for viewers to scrutinise under the lens of the dramatic sea change soon he is going to experience. Joy’s protective strategy works well for a toddler in this extremely unhealthy growing environment (he has to submerge into imagination for companionship, believes everything shown on TV is not real, and the room is their whole world), but when she needs him to assist her in the plan to escape, she must shatter the entire fabrication and tell him what is the real world, here, the clash reaches its boiling point, again, Tremblay is such a godsend to watch, accurately expresses Jack’s confusion, denial, fear and maturity from writer Emma Donoghue’s taut but rational script.
The next hour is less engaging, when Joy and Jack reunite in the outside world, Jack meets his grandmother Nancy (Allen, a fresh welcome to high-quality cinema since she is so overdue for recognition) and grandfather Robert (Macy, a small cameo, but his reunion with Allen as a couple hits the nostalgic sweet spot) for the first time, although they have separated since the missing of Joy, the cognitive knowledge of the real world is a lengthy and time-consuming progress for Jack, but thankfully he has no sequelae of the captivity and it turns out fine for him. It is Joy, who is struggling with depression, anger and guilt, collapses in the real world, Jack becomes her sole strength to overcome her psychological hurdles and there is a brand new life awaits them.
ROOM has an all-approaching, soul-touching story at its kernel, burnished with a brilliant cast (the film is unswervingly taking the stance from Jack’s viewpoint, which does make Larson’s Oscar-winning showcase less reverberating than in SHORT TERM 12, 2013, although Larson’s tenacity and mastery of emotions are peerless), and a humble diegetic approach through a child’s eye, it adamantly gives rise to a heartfelt sensation without sensationalising its characterisation, a singular accomplish under the belt of Abrahamson and the sterling teamwork.