Despite feeling like you’ve been stabbed repeatedly through the heart for most of it, there’s also something rather magical about Room, Lenny Abrahamson’s big screen adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name. From Frank Sidebottom to abduction drama, the Irish director’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Frank is an almighty awards season contender – and rightly so. Starring Short Term 12’s Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay as a trapped mother-son combo, Abrahamson’s feature will not only sucker punch you in the gut, but will inspire and amaze in what is 2016’s best so far.
After having been locked up in a glorified shed for seven years, Joy (Larson) knows that it’s time to act. With her 5-year-old son, Jack (Tremblay), to think about – a young lad who’s never seen outside of those four walls – she hatches a daring escape plan to evade their captor ‘Old Nick’ (Sean Bridges).
Rolled up in a dusty looking rug, Jack plays dead. Screaming and shouting at her perverted captor for her secretly alive son to receive a proper burial, the scared boy is thrown into the back of Nick’s truck where, on his journey to his apparent final resting place, he makes a successful run for safety.
From escape thriller to heartfelt family drama, after the pairing is freed, it becomes a fight to readjust to a world which had seemed lost to the both of them. Joy battles her own demons, questioning her lost years and parental skills, whilst Jack meets a world he’s never seen before, admiring every little detail in a way only a young boy can. Yet, beyond all this is a mother-son relationship stronger than any other.
While tears dripped down my increasingly moist face, there was plenty more to this story than just a boost to Kleenex sales. Yes, Room is one hell of a weepie, but beyond the sadness, there’s a wonderful sense of imagination, despite the harrowing nature of its narrative, that can lift you from fits of hysterical crying in beautifully heartening fashion.
Jacob Tremblay – barely out of his nappies, yet putting in a worldie performance – captures the strength of a young boy’s imagination; dealing with things he has no comprehension of in his own unique and magical way. What’s real? What’s not? A fuzzy TV set and his own unwavering mind become his sweetly innocent barometer for answering those questions. Like throwing a cave man into the 21st century, Jack – with his dishevelled long hair intact – must come to terms with the new world around him, as must his tormented mother. Larson is wonderful as the wounded Joy, yet it’s Tremblay – full of hope and wonder – who brings warmth to this meaningful spectacle.
With only space for the bare necessities and the only natural light coming from an out-of-reach skylight, their living quarters are incomprehensible. A shitty old bed and a worn down cupboard where Jack must sleep when ‘Old Nick’ is around are the highlights of their disconcerting living arrangements. Despite a good portion of the film being confined to ‘Room’, Abrahamson – combined with Larson and Tremblay’s awesome chemistry – manages to make this small, but never suffocating arena into a young boy’s unconventional think-tank.
It moves you, it affects you, and it will certainly stay with you; Room is this year’s most heart wrenching awards contender. In amongst the big budget features there’s a fear this gem may get lost amongst the crowd, but Abrahamson’s adaptation – expertly crafted and wonderfully led by two excellent leading performances – is nearly note-perfect.