Adapted by the author Emma Donoghue from her own bestselling novel, Room tells the harrowing yet mesmerising story of a young mother and her son who have been held captive in a room for several years.
That’s really all you need know of the plot. Room is not about the Why – instead, it’s a touching, beautiful and frequently heartrending exploration of the How: how a person can get through such an abominable situation and how one experiences the unexpected novelty of everyday life.
The core relationship stars Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Brie Larson (simply excellent in Short Term 12 though possibly best known for her role in TV’s United States of Tara) and 9-year old newcomer Jacob Tremblay, whose performance as Jack is nothing short of mind-blowing in its authenticity of a child whose understanding of the world is limited to what lies within four walls. (When a stricken Jack bellows “I want a different story!” as his ma tries to explain the traumatic tale of how they got there, it’s absolutely heart-breaking.)
Whereas the novel describes the action from the young lad’s point of view, the film is more impartial, conveying the horrific truth while still succeeding in provoking the viewer’s own thoughts about how we make sense of the world we take for granted.
Irish director Lenny Abrahamson showed his acuity with quiet thrillers in 2012’s festival fodder What Richard Did (before wading into bizarre territory with the polarising Frank). Although this is less a crime movie and more a family drama, there are moments of extraordinary tension and multiple opportunities for viewers to well up. With such a simple premise so expertly told, Room is staggeringly powerful.