Every accolade you’ve heard about this film is true. It is powerful, subtle, maddening, heart-warming, and not the movie you expect when you sit your butt down in front of the screen. Sure, you know the parameters of the story, but, for starters, it is told primarily through the lens of the 5-year old son. It is this aspect that allows it all to be just palatable enough, and just removed enough, to let you appreciate and hear the rest of the story that Donoghue has adapted to script from her book.
Brie Larson (United States of Tara) drives this story, despite her screen-son Jacob Tremblay owning the plot. Her journey within his framework has set her up for a long time as a go-to actress. Tremblay, himself, already somewhat tempered, is a bundle of control and ability, making you believe that, indeed, he’d never been outside the four walls of his world.
Supporting the two, Joan Allen (Bourne Legacy), William H. Macy (Rudderless), and Tom McCamus (Orphan Black) create a framework of family and collateral damage. Their dance barely registers on young Tremblay’s Jack, but the audience picks up the subtext nicely. A very nice turn by Amanda Brugel (Seed) is also worth noting. It is a small, but pivotal role and she plays it beautifully.
Director Abrahamson has delivered a film that will be long remembered. The level of detail in the design is equally impressive. The set of Room is, in fact, already touring as a sort of art installation.
Larson, Abrahamson, and the design staff are all likely nominees this coming year. In any other year, Tremblay would have been as well; the kid gives a knock-out performance. However, given his age and the crowded field of contenders, I am betting he just gets a slew of job offers instead. If he can maintain his abilities and grow up without burning out, expect to be seeing a lot of him over the next decades.
Meantime, see this film. It isn’t the depressing horror you likely expect it to be, which isn’t to say it is light. It is as honest as it could get and physicalizes the ability of humans to hope and survive even in the most depressing of circumstances. It is also an odd meditation on parenting, but that will read differently to everyone who sees it.