**There are unavoidable spoilers in order to write a proper review of Room. You’ve been warned.
Emotionally gripping and powered by a pair of magnificent lead performances, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is structured into two sections. Each is filled with fear and each is filled with love and in circumstances unimaginable.
“Room” is a garden shed where Joy (Brie Larson) has been held captive for seven years. Her kidnapper is called “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers) and his repeated sexual assaults resulted in child (Jack), who turns 5 years old as we open. The first near half of the pic is set in Room and it’s all Jack has ever known. Joy has done her best to raise a smart young boy and had to be creative about explaining other people on their TV set, among many other things.
Jack’s advancing age allows Joy to begin telling him kernels of the truth and she soon enlists him to participate in a daring escape. The sequence in which this is pulled off is one of the more suspenseful I’ve seen recently as we grow attached to this mother and son. In a conventional thriller, this would be fade out. Yet once free, they must adjust to life outside that tiny shed that Jack believed was the universe. This is Room’s second act.
Joy is reunited with her parents, who bear their own scars from losing their teenage girl. Items like phones and stairs are foreign objects to their grandson. And while Jack eventually begins to conform to his seemingly alien world, it’s Ma (as he calls her) who struggles the most.
Room is told from the perspective of Jack, who’s narration pops up voicing over his views of what’s happening. Obviously he has no clue of the horrific situation he’s been raised in. Based on Emma Donoghue’s novel that she herself adapted here, the pic is often graced with subtle and moving moments. The dynamics of Joy and her family members aren’t over explained upon her return and don’t need to be.
While its screenplay and direction are impressive, it’s unquestionably the work of Larson and Tremblay that put this material on an even higher level. Larson has a challenging role and there’s a lot of subtext involved. Her journey after her escape isn’t an obvious one and the actress has us with her the whole way. Perhaps even more awe inspiring is Tremblay, who gives one of the most natural heart wrenching child actor performances I’ve ever seen.
Both inside and outside that shed, Room grabs us with its visions through the innocent eyes of a boy living in two vastly different worlds with one common bond.
***1/2 (out of four)