There’s been murmurs for months about ‘Room’ and how we can all expect this film to take awards season by storm. Only problem is – as is the case every year – there’s a lot of competition out there, and a lot of other films are being touted as the one that’s going to “clean up at The Oscars” (other awards ceremonies are available). The Golden Globes is pretty much the second biggest awards night in the calendar, and if we take the Globes as a dress rehearsal for the Academy Awards, then ‘Room’ will be relying on lead actress Brie Larson for any kind of recognition in the form of a gold statuette.
I was intrigued by the premise to ‘Room’, and I’ve been getting more and more curious as the days rolled by. Adapted from the novel by Emma Donoghue, ‘Room’ tells the story of Joy Newsome (Larson), a 24 year old woman who has been held captive in a shed for seven years. Actually, I would argue that this is more the story of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), Joy’s adorable son, who knows nothing of the world outside the walls of the shed. You see, Jack was conceived, and birthed in the prison they refer to as “room”; a product of the systematic sexual abuse Joy is subjected to by her captor, old Nick. As Jack celebrates his fifth birthday, Joy decides it’s time he learnt the truth about “room” and the real world.
Brie Larson deserves her Golden Globe (for lead actress in a drama), and if she is rightly nominated at The Oscars too, I have no doubt she will take home the award that night too. She is fantastic here, conveying an impressive emotional range in a very, very convincing performance. Larson will be the big winner from this film; not just in terms of awards for this role, I believe she will go on to huge things in her career, with a rapidly growing reputation. But, the star of the show for me is undoubtedly young Jacob Tremblay. Man, that kid can really act! His acting abilities – especially in such a sensitive and delicate story – are truly outstanding. Many of his most accomplished moments actually come when he is doing what we imagine would be easiest of all – acting like a five year old kid. If you think about it though, to get a young boy to just act like a young boy, in front of all those cameras, takes a certain degree of self-awareness and discipline that I know I couldn’t demonstrate even now, never mind as a child.
Young Tremblay’s range is phenomenal too, giving us moments of humorous innocence and endearing naivety, as well as heart-breaking, powerful scenes of fear and frustration, but most perfect of all is the loving bond which he and Larson portray beautifully. This mother and son relationship is the basis of everything which is right with ‘Room’, but I’m afraid I have to raise a few negative points too. For me, the story felt very rushed. We could have spent a lot longer in “room”, got a better sense of the desperation and claustrophobia of “room” and witnessed more of the mistreatment and deprivation suffered whilst Joy and Jack were in there to add more gravity to the sinister nature of their situation. Also, I noticed quite a few plot holes – like why, after 7 years of being held captive, had Joy not at least tried to guess the door code?
Ignoring the plot holes, and forgiving the hurried narrative which offers very little backstory and skims over quite a few things which seemed to be quite important, I guess you have to take ‘Room’ as more of a micro-drama. What I mean by that is, that the wider story of why or how they’re in the room is not the focus; instead we are concerned with Jack’s simple understanding of life and the way this shifts as he adapts to the real world. With this approach, it’s only natural that we don’t see the extensive abuse his mother experiences, and thoughts of escape or life before “room” are redundant to Jack, who unassumingly enjoys the pleasures of a remote controlled car and Dora the Explorer.
If it were up to me, I wouldn’t count ‘Room’ as best picture material. But, it’s not up to me, and I do believe this to be right up The Academy’s street, so I would be very surprised if this were absent from their best picture nominees. It’s a beautifully shot film too, which I haven’t really given it credit for. I do think ‘Room’ is a really, really nice film, and I have to recommend watching it even just for those exceptional performances from Larson and Tremblay. I’m pretty sure I will never watch it again though, and I will more than likely forget about it as soon as all the Oscar hype dies down. It’s a good effort from Abrahamson, and an improvement on ‘Frank’, but we’re still not quite at amazing yet.
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay