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3rd February 2016

Review: Room

Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is a powerful tale of a mother and son relationship anchored by two tremendous performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay

Room is room to five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay). A life outside the protection of Ma (Brie Larson) and the cardboard walls of room are unknown to him. Life is a playground with his friends of wardrobe, sink, bath, bookshelf and egg snake all filling his daily life with joy, along with the tender love of Ma. This bubble of comfort is derivative of a grotesque act from Old Nick (Sean Bridges)—the captivity of Ma for several years.

Although some will see the premise of Room as a cinematic portrayal of such modern atrocities of the infamous Joseph Fritzl case, Lenny Abrahamson latest film in a catalogue of brilliance demonstrates the human race’s ability to endure, grow and love in the darkest of places. It must be stressed that Room is not the kind of film that seeks to distress, but it is a film that searches to outline the importance of life.

Based on Emma Donoghue’s 2010 book and subsequent screenplay—which has been nominated for an Oscar alongside Best Actress for Larson and Director for Abrahamson—Room could have easily slipped into realms of soppy filmmaking, as witnessed in My Sister’s Keeper, Lenny Abrahamson, in a recent interview with Empire Magazine, outlined the difficulties firstly faced in fending off competition from other directors to secure his position as artistic head of Donoghue’s book. Thankfully, the Irishman instantaneously places his fingerprints on the work and does not shy away from showing off his style—something which the screenplay could have overridden in the hands of different direction. The space in which he creates in Room is as magical as the fairytales told within them by Ma to Jack. Cinematically, the walls are as expensive and imaginative as the friends and thoughts in Jack’s head.

As the focal point and the main narrator, Jacob Tremblay delivers one of the most impressive child performances to date. Normally with child actors, there is a natural tendency for them to overact and to simply recount the dialogue given to them without any emotional attachment. It is fair to say that with every line of speech that Tremblay delivers is to utter precision. A sequential shooting of the film benefits his slow growth into the role, alongside avoiding awkward continuity of his feminine locks. The same brilliance can also be said of Larson, who has always seemed on the cusp of greatness. Her Oscar nomination is fully deserved, as should have been Tremblay’s. Both actors work in tangent with one another and the creation is one of true verisimilitude. Even the supporting cast of Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus extent this untainted realism.

The outside world that Ma and Jack face is as dangerous as the one they leave in Room. The confusion that Jack faces about the real world leads him aspiring to go back to the simple life of the past. All he has known is the ‘TV World’ and that of Room. The differentiation is hard to distinguish at first, but that is until he discovers the delights of Lego. The protection both mother and son hold is literally embodied in the framing and positioning of the camera. The lack of emotional crescendos, too, benefits the film—nothing feels heightened or overly dramatised. This can also be said of the score composed by Stephen Rennicks. Soft violins and the pianos create a continuous environment of the compassion both Ma and Jack share.

Ultimately, Room shines in a crowd of big-budget Hollywood releases like The Revenant and The Big Short. Its recognition in the Oscars and Golden Globes underlines the continual of growth of Abrahamson as a director—who deals in the absolute truths, also outlined by his 2014 film Frank. Centrally to this fine tapestry of film is Tremblay and Larson nonetheless. The mental challenges faced by their two characters is as arduous as the runner’s wall. The ending of Room will leave a cleansing feeling of your assured humanity and admiration for all those involved in creating such a beautiful piece of film.


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