You can always tell when it’s Oscar season…
…over the past few weeks I have seen The Danish Girl, The Revenant and now Room, and all of them have Oscar-winning potential. Room may not have sumptuous and glossy cinematography and neither was it filmed during a certain hour and a half of daylight each day whilst one of its A-listers stripped to his birthday suit in minus degree temperatures, but, for me, Room is the most deserving of the awards it is nominated for.
Room is adapted from the Emma Donoghue novel of the same name, and tells the story of Joy (Brie Larson) who has been held captive for seven years in a tiny, squalid room with only a toilet, bathtub, basic kitchen and a bed. The man who kidnapped her is referred to as “Old Nic”, who has been sexually abusing her since she was seventeen and has fathered her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Jack, who is turning five at the start of the story, only knows the world as the room, and doesn’t believe his mother when she tries to tell him that there is more to life beyond the skylight, but she needs to convince him as she believes he is the key to their escape…
Now, this film does sound grim, and I have read a few reviews from critics who have described it as “uplifting”. I wouldn’t go that far. Joy tries her hardest to maintain some sort of life and normality for young Jack, who seems to be your everyday five year old in very abnormal circumstances, but when Old Nic makes an appearance in the room the atmosphere becomes very oppressive. The film doesn’t grubby itself in his atrocious acts and it is in no way gratuitous, and this is because it is mostly told through the eyes of Jack, who Joy manages to shield from the violations that she has to endure. As a result of this method of storytelling, there is a lot of pressure on young Tremblay, who is only nine years old, to guide the audience through the film with his take on the situation, but it is a challenge that he not only succeeds with but also flourishes with, too.
It is through Tremblay’s performance that this film shines and comes to life. His innocent take on the world and the magic and wonder he finds in this prison, that he doesn’t realise he is a captive of, warms your heart whilst breaking it at the same time. His acting is so naturalistic it’s scary and you can’t help but think that this kid has a very bright future indeed. He thoroughly deserved his prize as the Best Young Actor at the American Critics Choice Awards, as did Brie Larson for her Best Actress triumph at the same ceremony. This films puts her through the emotional wringer and her performance is so believable and moving that you are choking back the tears throughout the film. With these two in the lead roles you have to stop yourself from calling the police to report the horror that they are suffering! They are that convincing. The supporting cast all do a top-notch job and no one puts a foot wrong.
The film has a good pace to it and comes to a close before the two hour mark, so your mind never wanders. In fact, despite the subject matter and it having a timely and well-judged ending (no spoilers, promise), the characters are so engaging that you don’t want the film to finish and you want to find out more about what happens. That sounds like a criticism, but, as you may have read from my review of The Revenant, I’m a big advocate of always leaving an audience wanting more. The direction and editing is handled with confidence and assurance. It is subtle and never gets in the way of telling the story. Director Lenny Abrahamson let’s the script and the acting do all that for him, and with a story and a cast like this one that’s all that is needed, as any adventurous film making would stick out like a sore thumb when telling this tale. Well done, Lenny, well done!
All in all, this is a fine example of a film made well. It is written superbly and is a demonstration of a masterclass in acting. I cannot find a single fault with it, so it deserves top honours from me.