VIFF 2015—Versatile young actress Brie Larson continues her string of strong performances in small but very worthy independent dramas. Here, she's tasked to play a captive victim held prisoner for many years in the titular Room while raising her five-year-old son, played by the impressively emotional Jacob Tremblay, born in captivity as a result of rape from her kidnapper. It's a harrowing but moving story involving complex feelings of grief, human survival, and maternal perseverance.
Based on Emma Donoghue's novel of the same name and from her own script, director Lenny Abrahamson is able to thoughtfully express such difficult human intensity in a mostly controlled setting by focusing on Tremlay's Jack and his point of view on the limited world view as he sees it. Tremblay is incredibly naturalistic and fluid in a performance so authentic feeling, it's almost uncomfortable how believable he acts as a child with no sense of the outside world.
It's quite remarkable how confident the film is and plays as two distinct halves taking place first in a single location to recreate the feeling of claustrophobia while the second explores the psychological pains of rehabilitation outside of prison. We see how Jack understands the concept of the world and hints of the actual trauma around him. All this makes Room a powerful portrait of the worst kind of horror a person can face. Using that kind of pain, the film expresses all the wonder and curiosity of the human spirit beautifully while never ignoring any of the grief.
Room succeeds on the shoulders of its dual performances from Larson and Tremblay as both are able to execute the dark but remarkably human drama in their characters so effectively. It's a bridge of strong acting and on point writing/direction from Donaghue and Abrahamson as we're able to emotionally invest into the difficult, wrenching subject matter.
Room screened at the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival.
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