William H. Macy
|Runtime:||1 Hour 58 mins|
|Release Date:||US: Nov 25 2015
UK: Jan 15 2016
|See If You Like:||Short Term 12,
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,
Coming up through the ranks of Indie film making, Leonard Abrahamson’s (Frank, What Richard Did) latest is another well-crafted chapter in his repertoire of tales about tortured & isolated souls. Taking on the 2010 novel by Emma Donoghue – who also penned the script for the film – Abrahamson brings to life the fictional (but inspired by truth) tale of a woman (Brie Larson – Short Term 12, Trainwreck) abducted in her teens and held captive in a sound proofed Garden Shed.
The abducted young girl (known only as ‘Ma’) is in a state of hopeless misery, until she becomes pregnant by her captor. Now with a life to nurture, she focuses solely on creating a world within the small Room in which her son, Jack, (Jacob Tremblay – The Smurfs 2) can be happy. Our story begins as Jack turns 5, still believing Room to be all there is of the world. Seizing a window of opportunity, Ma devises a plan of escape. Once again faced with reality, Ma now has to teach Jack all there is to know about the world he didn’t even know existed, while struggling to adjust to life outside of her prison.
It is always difficult tackling a subject that is so inherently hard to watch. Despite taking a ‘less is more’ approach to showing the atrocities Ma faced, the film has a hard job at its premise – how do you balance enough realism and respect for the sources of inspiration, but also maintain a level of watchability & enough uplifting moments to avoid depressing your audience. Unfortunately, the balance here is skewed slightly too far towards the depressing side. It is not a film you walk out of wanting to recommend to friends – it’s a film that should come with an emotional warning sticker.
Beyond that, it is deserving a lot of it’s critical reception (and Oscar buzz). Particularly the performance by Brie Larson, who brings so much emotional depth to the role. Despite seemingly a picture of calm on the surface, her heavy heart and inner struggle is evident and gripping. There is perfect balance of strength and utter defeat.
Young actor Tremblay has a lot to give here too. Problematic, both in the novel and in the film, the character of Jack is inevitably going to grate on some people, having little experience of dealing with his emotions and fears without obvious tantrums ensuing. However, Tremblay manages not to overact or be too cutesy in the softer moments.
The film does have a beautiful soundtrack (particularly the piano pieces) but visually it is a little empty. That’s sure to be expected when inside Room, but once the film takes us out into the world, there seems to be so much opportunity to express this wonder of ‘seeing the world for the first time through the eyes of a child’ in the cinematography – but instead, the focus stays mainly on the characters, with a tendency towards close ups. Add to this it’s dank colour pallet, and there’s a sense of hopelessness in it’s appearance.
All in all, it is arguably a strong example of a small scale film showcasing promising talent. Yet, there is real hesitation in giving it the thumbs up. Watch if you want a film to experience – not a film to like or enjoy.
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