Movie Review - Room

There's an illusion at the opening that had me believing there was no problem. A single mom and her son were having a day at home, living life as they normally would. Yet, it doesn't take long for that illusion to be shattered and descend into horror.

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, this film isn't a horror. It does have some very thrilling moments that had me on the edge of my seat and my heart pumping fast. Yet, this film is a drama about two people coping with difficult situations as best they can. The authenticity and delicacy with which Abrahamson handles the subject matter and characters alone make his film without question one of the best of the year.

Brie Larson (Short Term 12 and Trainwreck) gives by far one of the best performances of the year. Larson stars as Joy, a girl who was kidnapped at the age 17 and was held prisoner for seven years. She was repeatedly raped, eventually giving birth to her captor's child.

Jacob Tremblay co-stars as Jack, the 5-year-old son of Joy. He's a prisoner too, but he doesn't know it. Joy has raised him to believe that the entire world is this small garden-shed in which her captor has kept them. He knows nothing else but remarkably he's a happy child.

It gets to a point where Joy decides that enough is enough and that she has to tell Jack the truth about their situation. The look of tire and frustration is so palpable on her face, and especially her anger, but she does it. The film then follows Jack having to realize the world is not what he thought and adjust to new discoveries.

As odd as it may sound, that fact makes this film comparable to something like Oldboy (2003). There's little else that this film shares with that Korean revenge flick. Despite the terrible crime at the center, this film avoids violence, but still is remarkably effective. Besides Oldboy, a good companion piece to this, if one can stomach it, is Michael (2011), an Austrian film about a man who keeps a kidnapped child alone in his basement.

Michael maintained the point-of-view of the kidnapper and followed this bad man. It's the opposite here. The bad man here named "Old Nick" and played by Sean Bridgers (Deadwood and Rectify), is more of a shadow. Abrahamson instead maintains the point-of-view of the endangered child. We experience everything through his eyes.

It can be a gamble to rest so much, a feature film in fact, on the shoulders of a child, but Tremblay more than carries his weight. Abrahamson really immerses us into the world of this little boy and every moment feels so genuine and real. Yes, the film also shows the boy's fear and ignorance, but, at the same time, the film never loses sight of Jack's spirit and love, love of his mom and love of the world.

Joan Allen plays the grandmother to Jack. Her role is a minor one, but very significant and Allen is perfect in her performance all around.

There have been some criticisms about certain aspects, but I think this movie overcomes them all. It is excellent in every way and is a total knockout.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 53 mins.

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