Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, William H Macy, Tom McCamus, Wendy Crewson
Directed By: Lenny Abrahamson
Until now, my Best Picture of 2015 was Inside Out. Room is now my pick for Best Picture of the Year. I know there are a few films I still need to see that critics are raving about, but Room was incredible. Real, impactful storytelling. Memorable performances, more specifically “breakthrough” or “star-making” performances from both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Room is difficult to watch at times, but ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had watching a film in a long time.
The first half of Room takes place in a shed, where Jack (Tremblay) has lived his entire life. He’s never been outside. All he knows is Room. He lives there with his mom (Larson) who has been held captive since she was 17 by Nick (Bridgers). Jack sleeps in a wardrobe when Nick comes in to “visit” Ma. Ma decides she’s had enough, and her son is strong enough, so she changes everything he’s ever known by having Jack help her escape. No longer is the entire world just Room. Now Jack is being subjected to other people, cars, animals, sounds, and smells he’s never encountered before. The film is told from Jack’s point of view, and it’s a perfect reflection of how a five year old would see these events unfolding, even as the adults around him understand the true severity of what’s happening.
Larson, who should have been nominated for Short Term 12, is an absolute revelation here. She’s so real. She channels some crazy inner strength. It’s a transcendent performance, one that makes you forget you’re watching an actor, and rather some odd true life reality show. I felt like Larson really was the character, and she really was locked away. Her and Tremblay have excellent chemistry, and it’s one of the most believable mother/child relationships I’ve seen on screen in a long time.
All of this wouldn’t be possible without Jacob Tremblay, who isn’t quite 5, but I believe he was 7 or 8 when the film was shot (he’s now 9), and that’s still an incredible feat. While he is technically the lead of the film, he’s being pushed for supporting, and he deserves it. This film would be nothing without him. He’s the best child actor to come along since Dakota Fanning’s breakthrough performance in I Am Sam. If they announced tomorrow that Tremblay was starring in a remake of Home Alone, I’d actually be OK with that. He deserves everything. He also never felt like he was acting. He actually felt like a child, who had never seen the world before. I can’t imagine what that’s like for a kid his age, or how they explained the plot of the film to him.
In a supporting role, but to a slightly lesser extent, Joan Allen is terrific. I did actually know I was watching Joan Allen, which was a little jarring when she first joined the film. It reminded me I was watching a film, and not a “true story” documentary of some kind. She’s had showier roles, but she’s used here with solid impact. I doubt the Oscar voters will remember her performance, unless they just completely go nuts for Room. If Tremblay can’t get nominated, Allen won’t either.
What Lenny Abrahamson has done here with Room is nothing short of astounding. If you’re lucky enough to have Room playing near you, absolutely catch it. You won’t be disappointed. This is why cinema is the most important art medium, is to tell a story like this for the whole world to see. Room is very much a film that will stick with you forever.
FINAL GRADE: A