2015 / Director. Larry Abrahamson.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
ROOM is a confronting and gruelling film that deliberately stifles the senses and evokes an internal response. It is claustrophobic, yes, but above all else it is exquisitely beautiful. In fact as I walked out of the darkened cinema and into the bright light of day I felt emotionally drained. I had given myself over to the characters to such an extent that I didn't want to leave them behind, and as I drove home I recounted their story over and over in my mind.
The film is based on a novel and adapted by its author Emma Donoghue, and it tells the story of a mother and son who live as captives to a sick pervert in a highly secured garden shed. With reenforced sound-proofed walls and a vaulted door keeping them in, there is no possibility of escape. The woman has spent seven years inside the tiny room while her son, the result of her rapist captor, is entering his fifth year in isolation. The room is all he knows and he has no comprehension of an outside world.
Director Lenny Abrahamson's previous film FRANK was a dramatic story of mental illness disguised as a quirky comedy and while ROOM bares little narrative resemblance to it, it does demonstrate Abrahamson's same keen ability to present stories that are masked. The thematic similarities lie within the deeply layered structures and as the stories progress, he masterfully peels away each layer to reveal the next.
The story itself is, regrettably, familiar and ROOM feels like an amalgamation of recent headlines, and with so many of these cases in recent years the film may as well be a true-crime story. Whether it was inspired by Joseph Fritzel, John Jamelske or Ariel Castro (or any of the other horrible examples) the film looks beyond the sensationalised tabloids of these crimes and examines the psychological trauma that the victims endure, before and after.
The cast is phenomenal with two lead performances that are worthy of whatever accolades come their way. Brie Larson is incredible as the mother who is determined to maintain her sanity for the sake of her son, and she delivers a turn that is multifaceted and all-consuming. The son is played by Jacob Tremblay, who transcends the screen and gives us one of the most precise and endearing child-performances I have seen in years. If this kid doesn't bring a tear to your eye then I would check your pulse if I were you (just to make sure you have one). The supporting cast are great too with Joan Allen and William H Macy bringing an added measure of weight.
At times heart-wrenching... at times amusing.... and also incredibly thrilling... ROOM is a sublime film that takes the viewer through a gamut of emotions and ultimately proves to be a rewarding and fulfilling movie-going experience, and is the film that Atom Egoyan's THE CAPTIVE should have been but never came close go being.
ROOM opens in Australian cinemas on January 28, 2016.