Lenny Abrahamson's choice of films to adapt have always been interesting and there seems to be a common thread running through his more recent work - they all have a kernel of reality to them. What Richard Did, for example, was analogous of the Annabel murder case whilst Frank shared some elements with Frank Sidebottom and legendary lo-fi musician Daniel Johnston. With Room, there is commonality with the horrific case of Josef Fritzl and the imprisonment of his daughter for over twenty-four years.
n Room, Brie Larson plays Mama, a woman held in a tiny hutch with her five-year old son, Jack. From the very beginning of the film, we are seeing the sheltered world through Jack's eyes as he proudly lists his accomplishments and the many features of Room. Jack's innocence and wonder transforms what should be a truly depressing situation in to one of wonder and merriment. Of course, we know there's something truly amiss with it - but the film takes us so fully into his world that it's not until some time in that we realise the true extent of the evil taking place. Mama has worked out routine after routine for Jack, whether it's aerobics and yoga or hiding him in a closet when Old Nick - her captor - appears. The film begins with Jack's fifth birthday and we learn that Mama has been imprisoned for over seven years, but instead of giving her son a maudlin tale, she uses allegories that he will understand and connect with.
he film is split in two halves, with the first half focusing on their time in Room whilst the second half focuses on the world outside, with the twin leads of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay each given a chance to shine and perform in both parts without undercutting one another. What makes Room so fascinating to watch is how it could, at any moment, turn into a desperately depressing and emotionally exploitative tale of woe and hardship. That's not to say that the film glosses over their surroundings or their situation - far from it. Emma O'Donoghue's script weaves beautifully with Abrahamson's skilled direction, allowing a story that is credible, candid and connective - we truly are seeing the world from Jacob's eyes and limited understanding, something very films can capture well.
rie Larson's performance as Mama is truly one of the year's best, with a range and texture to it that hasn't been seen for quite some time. There are no standout moments of full-on, Oscar-bait acting. Instead, we see a mother who's trapped in a desperate situation, trying to make the most of what she has. Here and there, she lets her guard down and we see her break, but it's caught and restrained for the sake of Jack. That makes her performance all the more devastating to watch. Jacob Tremblay gives a balanced and nuanced portrayal of a child that is slowly beginning to outgrow his surroundings. Throughout the film, his 'strong' acts as Mama's reasons for living. The dynamic and chemistry between Larson and Tremblay is as natural and unfettered as anything you're likely to see this year.
s you watch Room, there is every possibility that the film could flip and turn into a maudlin, droning tale of woe and despair. It doesn't. There's something truly life-affirming about it that's hard to pin down, about how the most desperate of scenarios can be turned to good and that in the most awful of places, some small measure of happiness can be found.
s moving and affecting as anything you're likely to see this year.