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Room Review

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A mother (Brie Larson) and her son (Jacob Tremblay) live in a tiny room, but only one of them knows that there’s a whole other world outside it.

★★★★

Be warned, Room is a wrenching watch. It’s a story so abhorrent and seemingly hopeless that there may be times you don’t want it to go on, but within its tight confines Lenny Abrahamson, with a script by Emma Donoghue, finds warmth and hope. It is, against all odds, uplifting.

Ma (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) live in a ten-square-foot space. To Jack this is the entire world, where objects — Table, Rug, Wardrobe — are the only one of their kind and anything outside is as intangible as heaven. To Ma, this is her prison, a cell in which she’s been kept for seven years since she was kidnapped at 19 by a man who has raped her countless times and fathered Jack. But she keeps all these hard realities of life from her son. The brilliance of Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Donoghue’s Booker Prize-nominated novel is in making us see these two worlds as one, Jack’s magic and Ma’s horror, like oil and water, emulsifying into a twisted truth that helps both keep a grip on sanity.

Nine year-old Tremblay gives one of the best child performances ever put on screen, utterly convincing as his world is cracked open.

Abrahamson’s direction is astonishing, not just because he constantly finds new ways to see the room, keeping the viewer trapped in there but surprising us all the time, but for the performances he wrings from his cast. Larson has been threatening for years to truly break out, and Room should be the film to make it happen. She’s so raw as to verge on unwatchable, the pain she conveys just too upsetting to sit with. Nine year-old Tremblay gives one of the best child performances ever put on screen, utterly convincing as his world is cracked open. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Abrahamson. Very young child actors are only ever as good as their director.

Room asks an enormous amount of its audience, dragging you further into darkness in the journey to find some distant light. It’s a mark of how well Abrahamson has told his story that by the end, which takes you to places once unimaginable, you’ll likely be willing to go through it all again.

Tough, but resilience is amply rewarded. If last year’s larky Frank suggested Abrahamson was a director to watch, this makes him a director to be cherished.