Room review: A story of survival that leaves a lasting impression

  • Rashid Irani, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jan 30, 2016 16:13 IST
Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star in Room. (Ruth Hurl/Element Pictures)

Lenny Abrahamson
Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

A twenty-something woman has been abducted and held hostage by a serial rapist for nearly a decade. Born in captivity, her five-year-old son has lived all of his life locked up with his Ma in a squalid shed which they call ‘Room’.

The boy has never known a life outside the cramped 10-by-10-foot space. Sensing an opportunity to escape, his Ma risks everything to give her son the chance to discover the real world.

Scriptwriter Emma Donoghue, who adapted her own 2010 bestseller of the same name, and director Lenny Abrahamson have taken an exploitable premise and crafted an unsettling fable featuring two awards-calibre performances.

A relative screen newcomer whose previous films, Short Term 12 and The Spectacular Now, were ignored by local distributors, Brie Larson is mesmerising as the mother who summons all her courage to ensure a normal life for her only child. Her efforts are a testament to the power and resilience of maternal love. She is ideally matched by the subtly expressive Jacob Tremblay.

Read: Room is an unforgettable film

Brie Larson is nominated for an Oscar for this film (Twitter)

The child actor inhabits the role so completely that the viewer is drawn into experiencing the unfolding drama from his innocent perspective. Utilising extreme close-ups, the director skillfully conveys the claustrophobic nature of the duo’s confinement during the film’s first hour. Their entrapment is treated without a trace of sensationalism. We witness the boy going about his daily routine of cheerfully wishing good morning to the objects in the room before having his frugal breakfast.

The somewhat less intense second half sees the mother battling post-traumatic stress disorder while the son grapples with a reality he hadn’t known existed.

A reunion evokes conflicting emotional responses; frustrations fester. In one particularly telling scene, her father refuses to acknowledge the presence of his grandson.

Watch Room teaser

In the event, the overly optimistic finale is a bit of a let-down. But Room is essentially a story of survival and leaves a lasting impression.

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