Heartbreaking Indie Gem “Room” Showcases Larson’s Talents

By Scott Kurland
Film: Room
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridger, Joan Allen, and William H. Macy
Rated R
Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Adapting a novel into a film is a hard recipe to follow. If the book is critically acclaimed, there’s a chance the director and crew will mess it up. If the book is brilliant and unknown; then no one will go to see it. What if the book is so acclaimed, and  it feels realistic with an indie vibe?  Would you get an acclaimed indie director to make it fly off the page on to the screen? Well nothing like that has ever been done, until now. This week’s film “Room” is based on the award winning novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue. It’s directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the man responsible for the hysterically absurd rock comedy “Frank”. Let’s see if his sophomore follow up is as good, if not better than “Frank”; shall we?

“Room” opens up with Jack (Jacob Tremblay), he’s celebrating his fifth birthday with his mother, Ma (Brie Larson). They live in “Room” a small single living space consisting of a toilet, tub, kitchen, bed, and table with 2 chairs. What Jack doesn’t know is that his Ma is the prisoner of a man named Old Nick (Sean Bridger). Old Nick kidnapped Ma seven years ago and has been holding her captive. Ma is doing her best to shield Jack from the truth, however circumstances arise and Ma needs to get them out. What follows is the heart wrenching journey of Ma and Jack as they get out of “Room” and venture into the real world.

“Room” is hands down one of the best film of 2015. In my opinion this movie is the top contender for many Academy Award nominations. Donoghue’s novel/script is inspired by two true stories of imprisoned women forced to conceive children with their captors. The only difference is this story happens to be fictitious. Those other women aren’t so lucky. Donoghue is one of a handful novelists fortunate enough to adapt their own book into a film. With Abrahamson’s direction and Donoghue’s sharp script “Room” has the heart of a suspense thriller caught in the body of a family drama. 

For me, what makes “Room” work so well is how Abrahamson tells Jack and Ma’s story. A large chunk of the film is a combination of voice over narrative intertwined with scene without dialog. This technique shows us the mindset of these two very different people. Jack’s mindset is that  of a naive child slowly realizing that his home is a prison. Ma’s mental state is a little more complex. This is a mother trying to shield her child from an incredibly evil man; whom happens to be the boy’s father. How Abrahamson tells these two different stories is genius filmmaking and for it he deserves a nomination for Best Director. 

Abrahamson is not the only crew member who deserves an Oscar nomination. Everyone deserve some sort off accolade. Nathan Nugent the editor delivers one of the best edited films of 2015. Nugent crafted such a well structured film. I don’t know how he assembled this film, but it’s some of the best film editing I have seen. Right behind Nugent is cinematographer Danny Cohen, who might be nominated twice this year for both “Room” and “The Danish Girl”. There’s so much right with "Room". Well, filmmaking wise everything is right and appears to be perfect. The subject at the center of this film is a tough pill to swallow. I mean abduction is one of the most difficult and frightening issues facing the world today. “Room” never shies away from this topic and it shows the real gritty horrors and pain of being trapped for seven years. We see the extremes one mother must go to in order to keep her child safe.

  “Room” doesn’t just rely on successful editing, direction, production design, and cinematographer. That’s only 50% of what makes “Room” such a wonderful film. “Room” is so effective because of the leading actors Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Tremblay just turned 9-years-old two weeks ago, which means he was seven or eight when he filmed the role of Jack. For such a young actor he gives a Dustin Hoffman caliber performance. Does this mean he’s going to be nominated for an Oscar? Not necessarily. Ellar Coltrane was snubbed last year for his twelve year performance in “Boyhood”, but I will say this. If Tremblay is nominated and wins he’ll be the youngest actor in Academy history to be nominated and win. Tremblay’s Jack goes through so many different emotions that you can’t believe an actor regardless of age can be so convincing.

I’m not sure if Tremblay will be nominated for an Oscar, but I’m more than 95% sure Brie Larson will be nominated and win all the awards this season. There are some performance I see and I just know I’m watching an Oscar winning performance. I knew Jennifer Lawrence was going to win for “Silver Linings Playbook”. I could tell that with Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”, and now I can say the same for Larson. Larson beat out Shailene Woodley for the role of Ma. Don’t get me wrong; Woodley is a great actress but she’s too big of a name actress. Larson has been in a lot of films just like Woodley has. Unlike Woodley Larson always looses herself in whatever role she is playing. That type of acting ability Larson brings to the table is what makes “Room” such a masterpiece. Larson’s Joy (Ma’s real name) is so tortured. She tried to do one good deed once seven years ago, and it led to her being kidnapped. We watch as Joy has come to terms with her life and how being a mother now means being a protector. Larson has so many great speeches and scenes in “Room”, but what sells this performance is what she doesn’t say. At the end of the movie there’s a flashback scene of Larson in this prison cell of a room and she looks at the skylight with such hope. That one glance sold the entire film for me, and Larson continues to prove she is one of our best actors working today. She’s not just an actress she is something special, and this is my favorite performance of the year.

“Room” is one of my favorite films of the year. It’s heartbreakingly good, full of gorgeous cinematography, pitch perfect direction, and amazing performances from the two leads. This is a must see film that I recommend for everyone to see. Yes, the subject matter is a hard one to grasp, but the message of hope it delivers is very powerful. “Room” is going to be the little indie film to watch, because I can guarantee it will be going for the gold this award season. “Room” opens today in Boston and Cambridge, but it will expand in the weeks to come.If it is playing near you treat yourself to the best acted film of 2015.

scott kurlandComment