Room is 2015’s most multi-layered film. It’s complex, charming, a little frightening, but ultimately it’s a wholly unique viewing experience unlike anything I’ve seen in years.
It’s rare to find a film that so smoothly defies conventions and refuses to be boxed into one genre. It neatly covers drama, psychological thriller, family, inspiring and even some sci-fi aspects. Rarer still is the one that succeeds on every front.
There’s been a slew of ultra-serious, stuffy films pushing their way to the forefront for awards consideration, but Room is the unexpected treat that mainstream audiences will find equally compelling.
Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has spent his entire life in a small room with only his mother, Joy (Brie Larson). For an existence stuck in essentially a box, Jack loves his life and Joy is a loving an attentive mother despite her every waking moment spent with a 5-year-old.
The film starts off a little … weird, but stick with it as the story unfolds in a satisfactorily unpredictable way. Explaining further would spoil too much and watching it all unfold is part of what makes Room so engaging.
Director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) establishes Joy and Jack’s day to day life in this tiny room. Going outside isn’t an option, but food and other items are regularly delivered by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers).
But now Joy is finally ready to reveal to Jack the truth behind the room and their chance to have a life outside the four walls of their tiny confines. And with that opportunity, Jack is both overwhelmed and constantly amazed at the wonders outside the room.
Screenwriter Emma Donoghue adapts her novel for the big screen and predictably little seems lost in the translation. This would have been an easy film for someone not intimately familiar with the material to cover the subtle nuances and exchanges and it likely wouldn’t have been the same without Donoghue’s work.
I can’t imagine a scenario where Larson doesn’t win the Best Actress Oscar. It’s not just because Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence recently walked off with Oscar hardware. It’s simply due to her delivering the most heartfelt, believable and honest performance of the year. Larson lets the viewer in to Joy’s thoughts with a weary expression, the exasperating physical toll from her posture that frequently gets re-energized with a hopeful glance from Jack.
If there were an Oscar category for Best Youth Performance, Tremblay would be in a two-person race against Beasts of No Nation’s Abraham Attah. Tremblay is asked to shoulder just as much as Larson and perhaps is even more impressive considering his age.Larson and Tremblay escape into their performances so that unique bond that exists between a mother and child feels fully realized and genuine. Joan Allen and Tom McCamus offer strong, nurturing supporting roles in the second half when they’re needed most.
Just shy of two hours, Abrahamson comes close to letting a good thing go on too long, but the film is so tastefully and skillfully handled, that he’s allowed some leeway with the run time.
Put this on your short-list of guaranteed Oscar noms to see during the award season.