ROOM (Ireland/Canada/15A/118mins)
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Starring Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus.
THE PLOT: For 26-year-old Joy (Larson), abducted seven years ago and now living in a squalid, sealed-up garden shed with her five-year-old son, Jack (Tremblay), it’s all about make-believe. And making her boy believe that this is all there is – and it’s wonderful. More importantly, Joy is keen to keep her son safe from his father, Old Nick (Bridgers), who calls every now and then with groceries and a hard-on.
When Old Nick attempts to get closer to Jack, his mother knows it’s time to make another escape plan. And this one might just be a matter of life and death…
THE VERDICT: Based on Dublin-born, New York-based novelist Emma Donoghue’s eponymous 2010 bestseller, ‘Room’ cleverly takes us beyond the traditional teenage girl kidnap horror to the next day, and what happens when real-life takes over from the TV True-Life Movie Of The Day. Not that Abrahamson (who worked with Donoghue for two years as they put the screenplay together) doesn’t deliver wonderful drama in that first act, as we explore the big world mother and son have created for themselves in this tiny 11’ x 15’ room. But it’s when that big bad world outside comes crashing in that the real intrigue begins.
There’s lots to admire about this film – great cast, clever plot, tight direction, a stirring Stephen Rennick score delivered by the RTE Concert Orchestra, fine work by DoP Danny Cohen – but, more importantly, ‘Room’ is engrossing, and entertaining.
It’s a film too that establishes Abrahamson as perhaps Ireland’s greatest living, breathing, kicking filmmaker, his leap from ‘Frank’ to, well, Anne Frank confirming his talent for handling all kinds of cinematic madness and sadness. Golden Globe winner Larson shines, Tremblay is one of those freakishly good kid actors, and it’s heartening too to see the mighty Joan Allen back in the saddle.
Go see it. In the cinema.
Review by Paul Byrne

Review by Paul Byrne
4.0Engrossing & entertaining
  • filmbuff2011

    Lenny Abrahamson’s latest film Room has been gaining a lot of awards traction. Rightly so too, as it’s a stunning piece of work that tells a difficult story with sensitivity, hope and a child-like sense of wonder about the world and everything in it.

    Based on the novel by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue, it focuses on Ma (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Ma was abducted by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) seven years earlier and he keeps her imprisoned in a sound-proofed garden shed with a security code on the door that only he knows. Early on, it’s enough to assume that Jack is a result of Ma’s captivity. Jack is a sensitive, quietly-spoken boy whose only awareness of the world is through ‘room’, the TV and what Ma tells him about the world outside. With Ma now sure that Jack is old enough to be able to handle the truth of their situation, she asks him to help her in an escape attempt. Thus begins a journey of discovery and redemption for both Jack and Ma, as hope is re-kindled once more…

    Not that you would know it initially, but Room is very much an Irish film. An Irish-Canadian co-production by Dublin-based outfit Element Pictures, with an Irish director and other talent behind the screen, this is a story that will undoubtedly have international appeal. It’s a simple, unassuming film that quietly gets under your skin and stays there for days, even weeks, afterwards. Donoghue’s story was inspired by the Josef Fritzl case and more specifically the five-year-old child involved. That premise forms the basis of Room, but the story then branches out into an intriguing ‘what if’ scenario. To say too much would be to spoil its many delights. It’s enough to say that this is a story that grabs you from the beginning and keeps you rooted with these characters throughout.

    Larson, building on her solid work on Short Term 12, gives a powerful and realistic performance as a young woman coming to terms with the aftermath of her situation. It’s the kind of committed, unshowy performance that is worthy of an Oscar (she shunned make-up and lived in isolation to get into Ma’s mind). But it’s Tremblay who really impresses. The film is pretty much told from Jack’s point-of-view, so Tremblay has to do a lot of the emotional heavy lifting. A natural actor, immediately spotted by Abrahamson, his performance has that childlike sense of wonder about the world but also conveys the pain his character is going through. He also hits the emotional beats required to show Jack’s journey from a child living in an enclosed space to discovering the simple joys of petting a friendly dog or eating a cereal. It’s the most impressive child performance since Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus round out a strong supporting cast.

    Ever since his memorable debut Adam And Paul, Abrahamson has been a director of note. Room represents a step-up to the big league, marking him out as a major director of both actors and of emotionally-involving stories that resonate with audiences. Room is pretty much a perfect film in this reviewer’s eyes. There are no false notes here, no cloying sentimentality and no manipulative tugging of the heart-strings. It’s a much more mature and intelligent film that touches the heart. It’s an uplifting story of dreams, reality, hope and the power of parent-child relationships even in the darkest of times. You simply need to see this film. Now. *****

  • emerb

    “Room”, written by Emma Donoghue, adapting her bestseller of the same name, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson , is a truly remarkable, riveting and enormously powerful film. While at times unsettling, dark and emotionally overwhelming, it is nonetheless a powerful movie which I would urge you to see as soon as you can. The “Room” of the title is a dwelling inside the backyard of a predator, known as “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers), who kidnapped a mother, Joy, and her child, Jack, seven years ago. With only one small roof window and locked from the outside, it is their “home”. Their captor provides them with food, clothes and supplies and pays occasional visits for sex while Jack is hidden in the cupboard. He is the father of Jack who has lived there since birth and this life is the only one he has ever known. He addresses the objects and furnishings – Lamp, Sink, Bed, Plant – as if they were characters. To him, there is no existence outside of their four walls and everything they see on tv is just made up. He is totally unaware of the other, undiscovered world out there, a bigger, scarier place where other people live and which is very different to his fairy tale kingdom of make believe.

    The second half of the movie sees a shift in narrative. It takes place “outside” and there is a distinct change of emphasis. It becomes a story about the long and painful process of recovery and rehabilitation. For Joy, it becomes an inability to cope, grappling with the aftershocks of trauma, the guilt and the shame endured throughout the whole terrifying ordeal. For Jack, it is a culture shock of people, places, sounds and sights which are completely unknown. They
    must tryy to put their lives together and live like ordinary people – a concept that is both fascinating and terrifying for them both. Suffice it is to say that this half of the movie is every bit as moving and intense as the first as Abrahamson contrasts the terror of prison with the first exposure to an outside world that is completely alien.

    One of the most successful features of this film is the casting which is absolutely spot on. I was blown away by the authentic and committed performances from both leads. The young and gifted JacobTremblay is extraordinary and perfectly captures the wide-eyed innocence, wonder and curiosity of a little boy living a pretend life with his mother. Their entire nightmare is masked behind his youthful resourcefulness, juvenile and wondrous imagination. Brie Larson is a revelation and surely bound for awards recognition for her astounding, brave, raw and heartfelt acting. She gives a hugely emotional performance, her Joy is a committed parent of steely determination who is fully aware that, not only is she
    Jack’s mother, heartbreakingly, she is his whole world. Jack has become her responsibility, her only companion and her best friend. She makes sure he eats well, does his exercises, brushes his teeth and stays away from the man who has abducted them. Where another might crumble, Joy refuses to succumb to hopelessness and hate. The decisions she is forced to make are agonizing and Larson gives us the full range of emotion, moving from single minded determination to compassion and understanding to despair and anger. Joan Allen and William H. Macy are excellent as Joy’s parents, Jack’s grandparents, who had to endure their daughter’s long disappearance and the fear that she might be dead. Tom McCamus is a family friend whose presence becomes integral to Jack’s rehabilitation into the outside world.

    With “Room”, Abrahamson has created an unconventional but deeply affecting masterpiece – thrilling, suspenseful and utterly absorbing from start to finish. Together with the skilled prose and well-paced story telling from Donoghue, they have taken a horrifying scenario and made it profoundly emotional but yet uplifting and reaffirming. While the darkness of the situation is always clear and present, instead of wallowing in the lurid detail, the film delivers hope, promise and possibilities in a world where enduring love, strength and resilience is so hard to find. It captures the unconditional, all-consuming love that a mother feels for her child and that special bond that develops but is tested at times. While it is fiction, the chilling reality is that monsters like Old Nick do exist in the real world and that is part of what makes this story so compelling. “Room” is an immensely rewarding film, touching, harrowing, intense. It is simply unforgettable and will stay with you long after the last scene. You cannot but be impressed. I have no doubt in my mind that this film will be recognised at awards season and all involved certainly deserve huge success.