REVIEW: Gut-wrenching ‘Room’ worthy of Oscar

by Anthony Schnabel

schanbel@mnstate.edu

Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson’s latest project “Room” is a small, but powerful movie. Led by actress Brie Larson (Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominated) who plays Joy, a young woman abducted seven years ago living in a 10x10ft shed with her young son Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay (Critics Choice Best Young Actor). Only knowing the small world that consists of an old television set, a skylight and tiny amenities that fill up his environment, Jack doesn’t understand the horrifying situation he was born into.

Narrated by Jack, the viewer understands the restraints placed on Jack’s life, while he remains completely oblivious to the outside world. Joy is able to give Jack a spirited life by creating an imaginary world for Jack to rely on, but she knows the day will come when he will be old enough to help escape the only place he knows. The only other human Jack knows about is “Old Nick” played by Sean Bridgers, the man who is keeping them captive. Once Jack turns five, Joy concocts the plan that leads to the escape from “Room.”

Adapted by Emma Donoghue from her novel of the same name, this story carries an important underlying meaning to the viewer. Not only does it parallel several real-life abduction stories, it also shows the side the public doesn’t hear much about – the freedom after captivity. The thought of trying to start a new life and being released back into reality is the most important part of the film. The victims of these types of abductions have the adrenaline and fight to make things work while being held captive — especially for someone else’s sake — but when freedom and reality hit, things can fall apart for survivors.

The performances by both Tremblay and Larson are remarkable, grabbing the audience from the start and giving the viewer a gut-wrenching experience. With such a limited setting for the film, it could have easily turned into a Hallmark classic. But the dialogue and real serenity among the cast made for an emotional ride.

As the film goes on, one weak link sticks out: William H. Macy, playing the role of Joy’s father. Macy is predictable and weak at points. Luckily, a cutting-edge Joan Allen, playing the role of Joy’s mother, is on top of her game. Allen plays the calm-in-the-storm role perfectly, and without her the film wouldn’t be nearly as powerful.

And although Tremblay was not nominated for an Oscar, his potential for future roles seems promising. When Abrahamson met Tremblay, amidst a sea of two thousand other young actors, it was an immediate connection.

If you’re craving one of the most impactful movies of the year, “Room” will deliver. Scoring high with major critics, it looks to be a front-runner in the upcoming Academy Awards.

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