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Other // R // October 16, 2015
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
Based off the book by the same name, screenwriter Emma Donoghue has adapted her own work for the big screen. There's something to be said for an author who is willing to take on the task of translating their own work for another medium, and having to trim down material, as well as possibly add some to make the plot more fluid for the screen. Depending upon the specific case, it can be a daunting task. Room manages to pull it off in a way that's beautiful, emotionally captivating, and utterly breath-taking. If this isn't an Oscar nominee, then something isn't quite right with the world of cinema.
Ma (Brie Larson) and 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) have been trapped in a small room for years. The young boy has never seen the outside world, making him believe that it doesn't exist. When they manage to make an escape from their captor, they must learn to cope with the years of life that they have lost. However, one factor continues to remain the same: they have each other to pull through.
The first portion of the film sets up the powerful bond between these two, as Ma promises to help make Jack a birthday cake for his fifth birthday. The story is primarily told from the perspective of the young boy, as we spend quite some time exploring the inner-thoughts of a kid who constantly dreams of more than this small room. However, this dreamlike state quickly transforms into a nightmare, as their captor Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) physically, sexually, and emotionally abuses Ma. Frustration is a common feeling for this first act, as it's absolutely horrible to imagine that a person has actually committed such actions to another human being. Donoghue's screenplay does a tremendous job in establishing the stakes and the bond between Ma and Jack, especially as we're constantly terrified that their scheme to escape could go wrong in so many ways. We genuinely care for Ma and Jack, making every moment of their escape an adrenaline rush.
Some might view the trailer and think that it completely spoils the fact that they escape the room. However, this isn't a story about being trapped, but one about becoming free. Even after they escape, their hearts and minds are still locked away. Room is about Ma and Jack trying to find a way to cope with what has been taken away from them, and becoming stronger from it. if this was made in Hollywood, it would be about a court trial against Old Nick and you bet it would milk every ounce of contrived emotion out of it. Fortunately, Donoghue's screenplay and Lenny Abrahamson's direction have made for one of the most honest features of the year. Old Nick is hardly mentioned in the second half of the running time, because that isn't what is important. Ma and Jack's ongoing survival and exploration of the world are expressed in a way that manages to bring the tears without a single pause in pacing.
Well before the credits started rolling, you could just hear the sniffling from nearly every single one of my fellow critics in the screening room. However, perhaps one of the most satisfying notes is that Room has earned each and every one of those tears. Jack remains malleable, but Ma continues to struggle to find her footing, as she goes through stages of depression and anger. While her mother Nancy (Joan Allen) tries her best to be of help, Ma's strength lies in the very child that helped her escape the room that she was trapped in. Donoghue ends the picture in a way that's both smart and emotionally impactful. We should be grateful that this was made independently, as Hollywood would have turned it into yet another contrived drama.
Despite a great script, Room relies very much on its performances. The relationship between the two leads is the center point of the entire story, making the feature rest on the shoulders of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. As expected, Larson is absolutely spell-binding. Every line of dialogue delivered feels genuine. Once she escapes the room, the stages of her depression and anger are passionately displayed in a way that is awe-inspiring. Jacob Tremblay may be young, but he delivers a performance that elevates the entire feature. Child actors are often unimpressive, but Tremblay proves that he's a true talent to behold. The emotionally intimate scenes between Tremblay and Larson are out of this world. Meanwhile, Joan Allen portrays Nancy in a way that's just as convincing, making for a cast that turns a good film into a great one.
I know that it's only October, but I can confidently confirm that Room will undoubtedly make my top ten of the year. Author and screenwriter Emma Donoghue has crafted an emotionally genuine film that will surely be a contender for the most impactful feature of 2015. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay have delivered Oscar-caliber performances that deserve to at least be recognized come award season. They elevated the film to an other-worldly level that will have audiences captivated for every second of its two hour running time. Room is intense, genuine, and utterly soul-shaking. Highly recommended.