Film Review: Room (★★★½)


room_brielarson_posterDirector Lenny Abrahamson taps into the human spirit, pure and unhindered in his film “Room,” adapted from the novel by Emma Donaghue, who writes the film’s screenplay.  Anchored by two tremendous performances from Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay, “Room” mixes an emotionally harrowing story with classic film techniques that surprises even the most dedicated movie-goer.  Sure to bring some sensitive cinema lovers to tears, everything about Abrahamson’s direction feels raw and sincere, bringing to life, two very enriching characters.  What’s most impressive, is the classic style in which the film flows, even feeling weirdly reminiscent of the “Far from Heaven” in its movements.

“Room” tells the story of 5-year old Jack and his Ma, who both escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life.  We follow their journey through their room and in their discovery of the new world that surrounds them.

The film begins and ends with the towering works of its two lead stars, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.  Larson, whose big breakout in “Short Term 12” left an undeniable impression, is just an invigorating presence to watch.  She gets Earth-core deep into “Ma,” showing her strength and struggle in co-existing with her son and the near paralyzing feeling that she was left behind.  Tremblay gives Jack’s curiosity and wonderment a palpable force, and puts it front and center for the audience to see and touch.  It’s one of the best child performances seen in years, and one that you won’t soon forget.

As Nancy, Joan Allen reminds the world about her genius in her brief but memorable turn and how we should bathe in her luxurious talents every chance we get.  Also very brief is William H. Macy who utilizes his screen time well in one very effective scene.  Surprising to see is Wendy Crewson, who you may remember fondly from films like “The Good Son” and “Air Force One.”  Her vile talk show host is one trait that still sticks out.

RoomEmma Donaghue’s script is layered with terrific narrative beats.  If there is a flaw, its in the transition of the two characters to the world.  I don’t know too much about victims of captivity but I was expecting more of a physical struggle for both beyond a few key explanations by a doctor.  I’d also say that there’s nothing beyond what is seen during the first viewing.  You get pretty much everything you’re going to get from it when the credits roll.  Cinematographer Danny Cohen captures the claustrophobia of the room, eventually allowing his lens to explore the world through Jack’s eyes.  Stephen Rennick‘s score swells into the moment as an unstoppable train to the crying field.

There’s competency in the filmmaking aspect, all of which feels like something that could have been made in the 1950’s but with a much more aggressive story structure.  Abrahamson’s influences from cinema’s greats are written over every frame.  “Room” finds the connection from the story to the audience with ease, landing most of the landings it sets out to accomplish.  Larson’s performance is one of the year’s best works, echoing everything you come to see in an Oscar-winner.  She’s simply fantastic.  “Room” is a triumph.

“Room” opens in theaters October 16 and is distributed by A24 Films.