Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2016)

What's it about? Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is 5 years old and lives with his Ma (Brie Larson) in a room he has never been out of. He does not know that she was kidnapped 7 years earlier and has been in captivity ever since and that he is the result of repeated rape by her abductor. But the time has come for Ma to tell him there is a world outside Room.



Is it any good? Get the tissues ready - if you aren't moved by this, you're truly made of stone. From a bleak scenario, Abrahamson sensitively explores the central mother-child relationship, one struggling to raise and protect her child in vile circumstances, the other struggling to comprehend the 'fairy-tale' his mother is telling him. To tell the story without ever lapsing into sentimentality or moralising is a delicate balancing act, but it is skilfully pulled off thanks to a smart script and a subtle approach which keeps the nauseating horrors of Ma's incarceration off-screen, although they are no less horrific for being unseen or suggested.  Instead, Abrahamson makes the dynamic between mother and child the focus of the film, and crucially makes it one that is not all sweetness and light, as Ma and Jack react differently to the pressures of their situation. But it is precisely those episodes of tension and resentment that makes their bond all the more realistic - any parent will testify to that. It also helps that Larson and Tremblay give two absolutely outstanding performances, which never feel less than utterly believable and which gives the film that emotional heft. It also perceptively explores how children accept the world they are presented with and yet how their adaptability probably makes them better equipped to deal with change than adults might be. Nevertheless, it's not totally flawless; there's a whiff of implausibility in one key sequence and, as we move into the third act, a few loose ends remain frustratingly unexplored, whilst the score becomes unnecessarily intrusive at times. But these things can be forgiven because of the power of that central and affecting relationship. Be warned, Room will cause Lump in Throat.



I don't trust you. What do others think? Much acclaim and a firm fixture at all the big award ceremonies this year. Larson has took home virtually every best actress award going and is a cast-iron certainty to take home Best Actress at this year's Oscars - anyone looking to see more of her could do worse that catch her similarly impressive turn in Short Term 12. Abrahamson is also nominated for Directing and adds another striking film to his back catalogue. And Emma Donoghue, who cannily wrote the script of her own novel before it was even published, meaning she was in pole position to provide a screenplay when it was optioned, has also picked up a writing nomination. Interesting also to consider how Room straddles the divide between films such as The Truman Show and Life is Beautiful, which explore similar scenarios in more sentimental manner, and Dogtooth and Michael, which are more cynical and disturbing examinations of the subject matter. Well, I think it is, at least.

What does the Fonz think? Heart-rending to heart-thumping to heart-lifting. 

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