Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 58 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Written by: Emma Donoghue
(based on the novel ROOM by Emma Donoghue)
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Megan Park & Cas Anvar
2015 has been quite a wild year for movies. I’m deeply interested in seeing how the Academy Award nominations and winners play out early next year. There are tons of fantastic cinematic surprises that have erupted onto the screen during this end-of-year awards season and ROOM is on the top-tier of these phenomenal dramas. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, ROOM is a deeply moving rollercoaster of emotions set on an intimate scale and populated by a handful of well-written characters. It’s also one of the most beautiful and powerful films of the year.
Jack has spent the first five years of his life hidden away. Jack’s mother, Joy, was abducted as a teenager and has spent seven years locked in the dingy backyard shed (called Room) of “Old Nick” (Jack’s rapist father). Joy has done her best to shield Jack from the awful truth of their single-room life. As a result, Jack has grown up thinking that Room is the entire world. As tensions between “Old Nick” and captive Joy rise to dangerous new levels, motherly survival instincts kick into full force and a dangerous escape is made. Even when they do make it to the outside world, both Jack and Joy will have the harrowing experience of adapting to the outside world after years spent in a confined shed.
One thing that’s been receiving huge praise from others and that I will continue to praise here is the acting in ROOM. Brie Larson has a solid chance of getting the Oscar for Best Actress and she has earned every bit of it. As Joy, Larson shows love for her son and pain from her circumstances in equal measure. The movie may be centered more around her character’s son, but Larson’s Joy serves as an astounding adult counterpart to the impressive 9-year-old actor. As Jack, Jacob Tremblay delivers one of the best performances from a child actor that I’ve ever seen. He’s simply incredible and remains absolutely convincing through every frame of the film. This was clearly a demanding role and Trembly also portrays the more frustrating aspects of a five-year-old (occasionally driving his mom up the wall with frustration).
On the sidelines, Joan Allen and William H. Macy are Joy’s distraught parents and Jack’s newfound grandparents. Though William H. Macy doesn’t necessarily have a huge part in the film, he makes the most of the scenes he’s been given and has one especially heartbreaking moment. Joan Allen feels totally genuine as Joy’s concerned mother and Jack’s loving grandmother. Allen fits the part well and delivers quiet, heartfelt moments during the second half of the film. Though he only receives screen time in the first act of the story, Sean Bridgers is infuriating and creepy as “Old Nick.”
It’s worth mentioning that I haven’t read the novel that ROOM is based on. If it’s anywhere near as powerful or as well-constructed as this film is, then I’ll definitely have to give it a look in the near future. The decision to have this heavy and mature survival story narrated from a five-year-old’s perspective was a risky move, but paid off in spades. Little details stick out to give the viewer clues to the more mature aspects of the story happening among the adults. Jack’s narration gives the film an innocent quality too as he doesn’t fully understand what’s going on around him. While parts of this make for a couple of lines that are bound to elicit gasps and sobs from certain viewers, there are also a couple of well-placed pieces of cute humor that keep the movie from being a completely depressing tear-jerker.
ROOM uses many different emotions to tell its heart wrenching and powerful story. The beginning has tension as Jack learns the truth and the escape is made. The middle is where most of the heartbreak and tragedy come to a head. The conclusion is a perfect way to end the story as sheer beauty and unconditional love breaks loose. I was on the edge of my seat during the intense first act and was crying on-and-off during the rest of the film (other theater patrons seemed to have the exact same reactions as well). The performances and writing are perfect. ROOM is a deeply moving masterpiece and easily one of the best films of 2015.