Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridges, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Matt Gordon
Written by: (also based on the novel) Emma Donoghue
Running Time: 118 mins
Release date: 15th January 2016
It’s not often that I am stunned into silence after watching a movie. There’s always a first time and that time happened after watching Lenny Abrahamson’s extraordinary Room, which starts off as a small idea but grows into an emotional rollercoaster that left most of the audience at the screening I attended utter wrecks, including myself. It also has two unbelievable performances that capture you from the very first frame and refuses to let you go.
Joy shares a room with her son, Jack. This one room, blandly coloured and with the bare essentials, is all that Jack has ever known. Until one day, an opportunity to leave room occurs that has some very unexpected surprises.
As you can gather, writing a review for this film is going to be tricky without giving anything away. Unless you have read Emma Donoghue’s novel (she also wrote the screenplay) the best way to enjoy this film, if enjoy is the appropriate word, is to know as little as possible. Abrahamson, who gave us the imaginatively brilliant Frank, has delivered a quietly confident masterpiece, which relies heavily on its two leads. Without them being as believable as possible, you cannot be taken on this long, gruelling journey that they take.
Abrahamson’s direction is incredible, managing to find new ways to make the small enclosure seem sometimes vast and expansive and then incredibly claustrophobic, while never losing sight that the story is the star. The tone is one of utter bleakness and despair. There are moments when you genuinely cannot take anymore and feel you need to look away. Yet at the same time, there is this underlining feeling of warmth and hope and a belief that everything will be alright.
What is really clever is that Donoghue’s script is dealing with a multitude of themes and characters coping with their emotions, yet it is never blurred or feels forced and muddled. It’s a film that hits at the heart and stays there for the whole two hours. As all this heartache and pain is occurring, there is also a sense of wonderment pushing through as well.
The crowning glory to the remarkable movie are the performances. With a strong supporting cast including the always welcome Joan Allen and a far too brief yet incredibly powerful performance from William H. Macy, you appreciate that we are in the hands of true professionals who don’t need to chew the scenery to grab our attention.
So it leads us onto Brie Larson, an actress who has “bubbling under” as they say, for many years. Finally she has been given her breakthrough performance and she takes it on with such aplomb. This is a tour de force, a woman driven to the edge of insanity and yet having to keep things together for the sake of her child. It is incredibly emotive and you feel every inch of her pain as this “journey” she is taken on takes its toil. A worthy winner of the Golden Globe for best actress recently and it wouldn’t surprise me if she doesn’t take home the Oscar either.
While Larson is incredible, young Jacob Tremblay is a revelation. For one so young, this is the level of performance you would except from a seasoned professional. We experience most of the film through his innocent eyes, all the hope and wonder to the pain and misery. His is a remarkable turn, even to the point of expecting him to act like he has never walked down stairs before. It is one of the best performances ever given from a child actor. Never pretentious yet always watchable and believable.
I cannot stress how much I loved this movie, if you can love something so provocative and sometimes hard to watch. It’s a film that has stayed with me for days after and still moments flash up in my mind. A quietly confident piece that demands your attention. With all the big “important” movies about at the moment, this small-scale drama has enough punch to knock you for six. A devastating work and one I’m hardly likely to forget in a long while.