Film Review by Kam Williams
Kidnap Victims’ Harrowing Ordeal Chronicled in Adaptation of Emma Donoghue Best Seller
What would it be like to be 5 years-old and have lived your entire life inside a backyard shed about 10′ by 10′? And suppose you were being raised there by a kidnap victim who’d been caged and repeatedly raped by her psychopathic abductor since she was 17?
That is precisely the predicament of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the young narrator of Room, an intriguing suspense flick adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own best seller of the same name. Directed by Dubliner Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), the film is a thought-provoking affair apt to have audiences squirming uncomfortably in their seats for the duration of the claustrophobic, endurance test.
The story unfolds almost entirely inside their veritable prison and from the narrow point-of-view of a naive child shielded by his well-meaning mom (Brie Larson) from the fact that they’re being held against their will by a monster who also happens to be his father. For, it is ostensibly her desire to give Jack as normal a childhood as possible under the circumstances, while she waits to be rescued or for an opportunity to make a break from their cell. That way, the boy might not lose his mind in the dungeon and have less of an adjustment to make if they are ever finally freed.
Make no mistake, Room is one of those movies one must endure, rather than expect to enjoy. In that regard, it is reminiscent of Das Boot (1981), the World War II undersea epic which transpires almost entirely inside the close quarters of a German U-boat. This picture offers an even more oppressive experience in that you feel confined to a much tinier amount of space.
What makes Room unique, cinematically, is its ingenious juxtaposition of the mother and son’s psychological perspectives. To Ma, their ongoing predicament is a living Hell. For instance, she cringes any time her tormentor (Sean Bridgers) unlocks the door, since she doesn’t know what evil deed might be on his agenda. By contrast, this is the only world Jack has ever known, and he exhibits a typical tyke’s playfulness and insatiable curiosity, behavior which his mother does her best to accommodate, despite the limitations.
Overall, Room is a riveting tour de force featuring a pair of powerful performances by co-stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. The pair generate such chemistry that you never doubt that they’re a parent and child stuck in the worst of circumstances.
A few years back, Ms. Larson made a big splash in her breakout role as Grace in the critically-acclaimed Short Term 12. I wouldn’t be surprised if the talented actress were to land an Oscar nomination for her nonpareil work here as an exasperated mother straining to keep it together for the sake of a son she loves, despite his being the fruit of a demon seed.
A terrifying tale of survival told by an innocent blissfully unaware of his perilous plight.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity
Running time: 113 minutes