Room: Highlight of 2015, Boasting Oscar-Caliber Performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay

room_posterBoth suspenseful and emotional, Room, an exploration of boundless love between a mother and her child, is a highlight of American indies this year.

This captivating thriller won over audiences at the Toronto Film Fest, earning the People’s Choice Award, which speaks well of its commercial appeal in the marketplace.

Anchored by two strong performances, from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, Room is a dark,  harrowing story, which, nonetheless, ultimately has a positive message of hope.

 

Room tells the unusual story of Jack (Tremblay in a breakout performance), a spirited 5-year-old who is looked after by his loving and devoted Ma (Larson).

room_5_larsonA major talent to watch, Larson has already impressed viewers in Short Term 12 and Trainwreck, but Room is the movie that announces her arrival as a major actress, who can carry a feature on her solid shoulders.

In the film’s first scene, we observe the detailed preparations for Jack’s fifth birthday, including the joint effort of baking a cake.

Jack, a spirited 5 year-old, is looked after by his loving Ma, who dedicates herself to keeping him safe, nurturing him with warmth and love and by doing all the ordinary and typical things, such as playing games, telling stories, arguing and laughing. However, they are trapped in a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space, which Ma has euphemistically named “Room.”

room_4_larsonTheir life, however, is anything but typical.  They are trapped—confined to a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space, which Ma has euphemistically named “Room.”

When Jack’s curiosity about their living conditions is aroused, and he begins asking questions, Ma finally decides that it’s time to tell her boy the truth: Seven years ago, while she was only 17, she was kidnapped (“stolen” she says) by Old Nick and imprisoned in Room.  Two years later, Jack was born.  She makes sure to stress that, despite the grim context of his birth, his very existence is what that provides her the greatest joy–and raison d’etre.

We soon meet the mysterious stranger, a brute of a man who periodically visits the space, brings basic supplies, and continues to abuse Ma both sexually and mentally.

Over the years, Ma has created a whole universe for Jack within Room, and she will stop at nothing to ensure that, even in this treacherous environment, he is able to live a complete and fulfilling life.

room_2_larsonBut as Jack’s curiosity about their situation grows, and Ma’s resilience reaches its breaking point, they enact a risky plan to escape, ultimately bringing them face-to-face with what turns out to be the scariest thing yet: the real world.

At once a taut narrative of captivity and freedom, an imaginative trip into the wonders of childhood, and a profound portrait of a family’s bonds and fortitude, Room is a transcendent experience based on the award-winning bestseller by Emma Donoghue.

room_1_larsonDirector Lenny Abrahamson achieves an amazing feat, he remains faithful to the tone of the original novel, while at the same time bringing Jack, Ma and their entirely singular world to a uniquely and intensely cinematic life.

Despite its depressing situation, especially in the first reel, ultimately Room serves as a timeless tribute to the creative power of the human mind, demonstrating the triumphant virtue of maternal love in the darkest of circumstances.  It is certainly one of the most emotionally affecting films to explore the bond between a single mother and her child.

A riveting emotional journey starts out in a solitary, locked “10 x 10” room, then bursts into a vast, unbounded, revealing universe unlike any other in Room.  Under the most staggering of circumstances, Jack and his fiercely devoted Ma hold each another together through the sheer force of love, imagination and resilient spirits.

room_3_larsonThe tale of Room first captivated critics and readers when Donoghue’s book was published in 2010, instantly becoming not only a popular bestseller, but a modern classic.

Part fairy tale, part thriller, part family melodrama, the book and film deal effectively with such socially relevant themes as captivity, isolation, liberation, and connection.  It shows the boundless capacity of human beings not only to physically survive the most horrific circumstances, but also to create and perceive a world in their heads.

But it was also an undeniable celebration of parental love and human fortitude, exploring the life-sustaining, chaos-overcoming bonds between a single parent and a young child.

Few films (or novels) have ever had such as remarkable and original narrator as Jack, the exuberant 5-year-old who has never seen the modern world we all know outside the place he calls Room.

Specifically, Jack has never felt the wind or the sun or the rain, and he has never known a single soul other than his Ma. He has no way of knowing his Ma has been trying to survive in their Room since she herself was just a girl of 17. Instead, her love and focus on his happiness have kept him from realizing his extreme peril, and allowed him to become a curious, affectionate, intrepid explorer of things that are big and small.

The confines of Room are experienced by Jack as a wonderland–Ma, in fact, makes explicit references to “Alice in Wonderland” and the rabbit hole.  But it is a wonderland destined to come undone, when Ma comes up with a bold escape plan to enter the outside world, with all the unknowns it represents.

The movie is built on the tensions, both anticipated and unanticipated between two disparate worlds: the love-and-play-and-Ma-filled world in Jack’s head, and then the outer world that threatens him and his Ma once they are outside the room, which ironically has functioned as comfort zone, with limited intrusion from any outside force.

There are many well-known supporting actors in Room. Joan Allen plays the kidnapped woman’s mother, a sympathetic and sensitive woman, ready to do anything for the welfare of her daughter and grandson.

William H. Macy is her stern father, who is unable to accept the boy as his legit offspring; he cannot even look at him directly when asked so by Ma in one of the film’s strongest emotional scenes.

Canadian actor Sean Bridgers is the mysterious perpetrator (“Old Nick,” the boy calls him), who only occasionally appears on camera.

After debuting at the Telluride Film Fest and winning a major audience award in Toronto, Room has become a serious contender in the upcoming awards season.