Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the screenplay), Room is as expertly-crafted as any film this year. It’s a monumental achievement, showcasing not only Larson’s phenomenal range but also the incredible depth and poignancy of a mother’s love for her child.
Larson is Joy, a 24-year old who was kidnapped seven years earlier and has been held captive in a locked garden shed by a cruel, sadistic man known only as Old NIck (Sean Bridgers). During her captivity, she gave birth to Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who has grown up thinking that the entire world is their eleven-by-eleven cell. He’s never seen a tree or a dog or anything other than the small square of blue sky visible from the shed’s skylight, and his ignorance makes him completely happy. It’s a perfect contrast to the utter horror Joy is living, sharing the exact same space.
Shortly after her son’s fifth birthday, Joy realizes time is running out, and if she and Jack are ever going to escape, they need to act soon. What follows may just be the most tense and utterly gripping ten minutes of any film in recent memory, as she attempts to put her plan into action.
Director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) captures the isolation and terror of Joy’s existence perfectly. No camera tricks, special effects, or false walls were used; he filmed in that shed right alongside his actors, and the result may result in some audience claustrophobia, but it’s a feeling that is vital to the story.
Room is not violent or graphic, but it’s harrowing and gut-wrenching, while also life-affirming and utterly inspirational. The psychological trauma is as real as it gets, and seeing how Larson tackles the role with such dedication and talent is a gift to anyone who appreciates masterful filmmaking. And Tremblay matches her note-for-note, emerging as a true revelation.
(Don’t worry… no spoilers!) By the time we reach the end, and Joy mouths two simple words to close out the movie (making Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud” feel like a throw-away line by comparison), Room has already established itself as one of the finest films of the year, if not the past decade. It’s that good.