ROOM – a review by JJ Heaton

Starring: Brie Larson (Trainwreck), Jacob Tremblay (The Smurfs 2), Joan Allen (The Bourne Ultimatum), Sean Bridgers (Trumbo), Tom McCamus (Orphan Black), William H. Macy (Boogie Nights)

Director: Lenny Abrahamson (Frank)

Writer: Emma Donoghue

Runtime: 1 hour 57 minutes

Release Date: October 16 (US), January 15 (UK)

You know how in a lot of thriller mystery movies someone goes missing and at the end the hero finds them living in some hovel in a deranged guy’s basement? What if we saw that story from the captive point of view? Room is that story, but just because it’s about a dire situation that doesn’t mean it’s a depressing experience. It is harrowing and tense in a lot of ways, but ultimately it’s a far more hopeful tale than you’d expect.


What makes Room so inspired and original an experience is how it’s told from the perspective of 5-year-old Jack (Tremblay). By seeing this story through his eyes, it drastically changes the tone of the movie because he doesn’t see the horror in his situation. In many ways it lightens the mood, but in those moments when you really think about the reality of his and Joy’s (Larson) life it brings you right down to Earth again. When they finally escape their capture, you might expect the film to lighten up, but in certain ways the story takes an even darker turn. It shows how an experience like that would have a massive effect on both characters, and because they perceived their captivity differently they also deal with the aftermath very differently. The film never feels too saccharine or too depressing, blurring the line between the two moods seamlessly, but it’s those moments of high intensity or high emotion where the movie truly sings. The tension in the escape scene is especially frightening to watch as Jack simultaneously deals with trying to flee his captor and comprehend this new world he’s found himself in. It’s a nerve-wracking watch at many points, but ultimately hope wins out and you’ll leave the theatre feeling emotionally drained but fulfilled at the same time. My only major fault with the film is that post-escape the story doesn’t give much closure to the fate of their captor Old Nick (Bridgers). It’s mostly insinuated what happened to him and the story is more about our main characters recovering rather than seeking justice, but I simply felt there was a lack of resolution to that thread.

Brie Larson has been hanging on the fringes of fame for a long time now, popping up in small but memorable roles in films like Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Don Jon, but only recently has she started attracting real attention and I think her performance in Room is going to skyrocket her to even higher stardom. Even during scenes when she’s supposed to be composed and in control, you can sense the fear and frustration underneath every line, and whenever that horror breaks through it’s frightening. A scene where she’s interviewed post-escape and is asked some particularly difficult questions reveals how truly broken she is as a person, making you wonder whether she can or would want to continue living on even though she’s now free. It’s a haunting but beautiful performance that will surely define Larson’s career, and she’s certainly a versatile enough actress as proven by her previous work that she’ll never become typecast. But as much as she impresses, young Jacob Tremblay shines just as brightly. In one of the best performances by a child actor ever put to screen, he is completely convincing as a young boy completely oblivious and even in denial of a world beyond what he knows. The way he locks up when someone unfamiliar enters the room or how he reacts to something unknown or justifies his imagination-fuelled beliefs all feel completely genuine; there’s never a moment where his acting falters. He is the true star of the film, and without such a phenomenal performance I don’t think the movie would have worked even half as well.

Room shows us a horrible situation from the most innocent of perspectives, and in doing so creates a truly unique film experience. Larson and Tremblay elevate the already strong material to awards-worthy calibre, making it certainly one of the best films of 2015. It truly runs the full gamut of emotions during its runtime, but you’ll hopefully find the experience more uplifting than upsetting.


Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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