Film Review: Room

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star in "Room." (Ruth Hurl/Element Pictures)

Originally published on The Edge on 14/10/15 and The National Student on 19/10/15. 

5-stars

Lenny Abrahamson graduates from hipster rockers to emotionally torn kidnapping victims in this tense, thoughtful and overwhelmingly powerful celebration of the innocence and wonder of childhood. 

Five year-old Jack has never left the safety of the titular ‘room’ – where he lives with his mother Joy (Brie Larson), the victim of a brutal kidnapping many years before. Trapped in a single room packed with the basic necessities by her captor, Joy attempts to raise her son – a child of abuse – without the amenities of the outside world. But when young Jack begins to question the nature of their living situation, Joy realises that the time may have finally come to attempt an escape, and so she hatches a plan to free them both from captivity. The rest may well border on spoiler territory, but rest assured, this is far from a one-note picture. 

As dark and downtrodden as such a scenario may at first sound, it may be surprising to know that Room is in fact the direct opposite in terms of its overall tone. There are obviously nasty moments in the film’s introduction, and some upsetting morals which come into play as the narrative develops, but if anything, Abrahamson dances to a significantly more uplifting beat throughout. He doesn’t choose to dwell on suffering or misery but instead, survival; resurrection. Room is the story of a young boy’s undying spirit; that unbridled innocence of youth that refuses to give in to the pressures of the dark side of reality, and this makes for an infinitely more interesting watch. 

With such a tone then comes some tremendously emotional moments. In fact, so much of Room is so incredibly moving that over time, it actually becomes a little draining. By the time Abrahamson finds himself ready to tie everything up, it almost feels as if there are no tears left to shed – and yet they still keep on coming; every ounce of emotive depth is explored and rinsed clean. The fallout is tough, but ultimately is that not the sign of an incredible film, if it sticks with you in such a clear and present way? 

All of this is only possible though because of the film’s leading duo. Brie Larson, a festival-favourite in previous years thanks to her low-key work on the likes of Short Term 12, truly dazzles here as a panicked and volatile single mother. It’s a role with multiple sides and layers, all of which being handled with honest thought and care by Larson. 

But what really catapults her work here into Oscar territory is in fact her chemistry with the young Jacob Tremblay. Tremblay is, much like Larson, phenomenal in his own right, mastering the complex and multi-faceted emotions of the role with total precision – but when the two are combined, the results are frankly heartbreaking. There is no escaping the power of their natural connection; sold as a fierce and genuine bond between mother and son that anchors the entire film in a brutal sense of realism, making each event just as affecting as the last. 

With Room, Lenny Abrahamson has achieved a totally new level of drama; one that is both tense, but frequently joyous in its chronicling of the innately human desire to find happiness in even the darkest of places. A contemporary companion to the likes of Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful, it is a profoundly moving experience that promises hope and honesty to all those who willingly invest in its morals. You can’t get more powerful than that. 

Room (2015), directed by Lenny Abrahamson, is being shown as part of the 2015 BFI London Film Festival. Further information about the film including screening times and ticket information can be found here.

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