27 January 2016 | bob-the-movie-man
Awesome film - shame about the trailer
Room, based on the book by Emma Donoghue, starts on young Jack's 5th birthday. He gets a birthday cake from his mother (but no candles); a visit from his father; and a gift, albeit belatedly. This would all be perfectly normal except that all of this takes place within 'Room' - a confined space with only a single skylight for daylight and no means of escape. For the mother, Joy, was abducted as a teen and locked away for sex in the style of the dreadful real-life examples such as that perpetrated by Josef Fritzl in Austria. Jack is the (presumably) unintended result: a boy with no perception of the real world beyond his four single-sided walls and with the staunchly-held view that the things he sees on a flickering TV screen are in 'TV land' and unreal. Will Jack and Joy survive and ever see freedom again?
And that's where I'll leave this synopsis, since (if you've been lucky enough to avoid the trailer) there is a tense cat-and-mouse story to unfurl here.
This is an absorbing, although slow-moving, film that builds to some truly nail-biting moments. The screenwriter (also Donoghue) and director (Irishman Lenny "Frank" Abrahamson) are to be commended in keeping the story and drama really well-grounded and un-saccharined. Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), the 'evil kidnapper', is not painted as some predictable monster: he is even portrayed to be kind and caring at some warped level. And there is no gratuitous sex: we are in effect seven years into the story and the abnormal is now completely normalised.
The film is told primarily from the viewpoint of Jack (Jacob Tremblay) but we also get under the skin of Joy (Brie Larson) and her emotions in trying to mentally deal with her ordeal. Looking at a picture of her with her school friends she bitterly comments that "Nothing happened to them - - they just got on with their lives".
The acting is superb. I made the mistake of voting for John Boyega for the BAFTA Rising Star award before seeing this film (you can cast your vote here http://www.bafta.org/film/awards/ee-rising-star-award-in-2016). Not that Boyega isn't great, but Brie Larson really REALLY delivers here. She obviously won't give a hoot if she wins the Best Actress Oscar! And for me, for this award, she shines out in what I would perhaps see as one of this year's weaker Oscar categories. Jacob Tremblay is also exceptional as Jack - and it would be nice (rather than try to compare young performances with adult ones, as per Anna Paquin) if there was a special awards category for actors and actresses under 10. If there was, then Tremblay would storm it! You seriously forget that this is a child acting a part. He is totally connected to the role and these two core performances lock in your belief in the story.
Supporting the cast are the ever reliable William H Macy as Joy's mentally tortured father, Joan Allen (Pamela Landy from the "Bourne" films) as her equally distraught mother and Sean Bridgers as the kidnapper.
At 2 hours long some of the scenes in the middle of the film made my attention waver a little. But my main criticism is in the trailer and marketing of the film. If ever there was a need for a true 'teaser trailer' this is it. I never know who is responsible for putting trailers together - whether the director has the final say or whether its some nameless marketing bods in the distribution company, but whoever it is they should be taken out and 'given a good talking to' for this travesty. It's like putting all of the twists in films like "The Crying Game", "The Sixth Sense" and "Gone Girl" in their respective trailers. I've gone so far as to create my own One Mann's Movies cut of the trailer, just for you good people, which I have included with my bob-the-movie-man.com version of this review.
A leisurely, nuanced and effecting drama, this is not for fans of "Die Hard" or "Fast and Furious" fans. But for everyone else, this should be a must see.
Please visit bob-the-movie-man.com for the graphical version of this review. Thanks.