Brie Larson plays Ma, a 24-year-old woman trapped in a shed for seven years, after being kidnapped by a pedophile she refers to as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). She has given birth to a son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), while being held captive, and he has just turned five.
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay, "Room" is directed with a deft hand by Lenny Abrahamson, who handles the subject matter with compassion and honesty. Ripped from the headlines detailing similar horrific stories about young females being held for may years against their will, "Room" exposes the harsh truths about peoples' perceptions of these unfortunate prisoners.
Larson and Tremblay are magnificent --- together and separately. The Oscar buzz is already circulating about Larson's performance, but it's difficult not to consider Tremblay, as well. Whether screaming in their "room" to vent their frustrations, or cuddled in bed together for comfort and support, these two actors provide us with a true sense of the desperation
and loneliness of their situation, and the solace each provides the other.
Their confinement is less of a hardship for Jack because this is all he's ever known. His attachment to his mother is profound and understandable, but the questions which come later for Ma cause her considerable pain and self-doubt. It is simply impossible to resist Tremblay's precious and expressive face. His portrayal is both heartbreaking and joyful. Those eyes, that voice and that hair --- he's magical.
Joan Allen, one of the finest actresses in film, gives an outstanding turn as Ma's own mother, Nancy. It's so perfectly understated and effective that she may also be in line for a supporting actress Oscar.
"Room" is a touching and thought-provoking film --- one of the best so far this year. Poor David fessed up that he hasn't cried this much during a movie since "It's a Wonderful Life".
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
"Room" is the unusual story of a young mother and her 5-year-old son living in ramshackle conditions in a tiny shed, a small skylight their only outlet to the world outside. Based on the best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay, "Room" is a powerful, emotionally-charged drama that should be an Oscar contender on many levels.
Initially we are basically clueless as to what is going on. Ma (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Trembley) exist in a 10-by-10 foot space, their only other contact is an occasional visit from a man who stops by to deliver food, and have sex with Ma. Insane father? Disgruntled boyfriend? Nutcase? We soon learn that the man they call Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) keeps them imprisoned in the room via a steel door, controlled by an electronic lock, to which only he knows the code. It is much later that we learn the truth about Old Nick.
Meanwhile, Jack, who appears to be a girl with his long locks, and his mother go about their daily business. Jack's only connection to the rest of society lies in what Ma tells him, and programs he watches on an analog TV set. They play games, they take baths together --- it's all normal to Jack, including going to sleep in a tiny closet. On his fifth birthday, they bake him a cake, but he's disappointed there are no candles to put on top.
As the film progresses, we are provided more clues. Ma, in desperation, concocts a crazy escape plan. It is then that "Room" takes off in true suspense mode. Critics have often used the phrase "this is why we go to the movies" to describe particularly special films, and "Room" is worthy of such praise. Larson is being touted for a possible Best Actress nod, and the great Joan Allen, playing Jack's grandmother, for Supporting Actress, rightly so.
"Room" may also make the short list for Best Picture. And I would include cinematographer Danny Cohen, Oscar-nominated for "The King's Speech", if for no other reason than the singular glimpses we get of Jack's initial exposure to the real world.
But it is the extraordinary turn by nine-year-old Tremblay that is at the center of this story. There have been some remarkable film performances by young actors --- recently Quvenzhané Wallis comes to mind, and Tatum O'Neal 42 years ago. Tremblay's heartrending portrayal of Jack literally takes your breath away. When Jack remembers "room" --- Ma's term for their prison --- as a place to which he wants to return, if only for a visit, it is terribly sad and incredibly moving.
"Room" is loosely based on Donoghue's own recollection of the true story of an Australian woman, Elisabeth Fritzl, who was held captive by her sadistic father for 24 years in a basement dungeon, during which time she gave birth to several children. So the author wondered what it would be like for a young woman and her son to be trapped under similar circumstances, with no apparent way out, and her novel was born.
"Room" starts off as an intriguing mystery, evolves into an exciting thriller, and ultimately grabs its viewers in a compelling love story between a woman and her child. It is not to be missed.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!