Room ★★★★★


Ranked: 2015

Whilst I appreciate the convenience of services like Netflix and I treasure my Blu-ray collection, I'll never stop loving going to the movies. The main reason for this is that, for the most part, I find I'm never as immersed in a film at home as I am in darkened theatre in front of the big screen. However, whilst going to the cinema is certainly my preferred method of watching a movie, I don't think I've ever been so totally lost in a film's tapestry that I don't think to take a sip of my drink, or shuffle in my seat to get comfortable, or notice the rustling of popcorn around me. Well, that was the case before tonight, because tonight I saw Room. It drew me in and cast a spell like no film I have seen before has been able to do.

I was slightly apprehensive about seeing this film, fearing that it wouldn't quite live up to the lofty expectations I had set for it. Whilst it was receiving a number of brilliant reviews, I felt that having seen the spoilerific trailer numerous times, I had a pretty good handle of what to expect and that whilst I'd probably appreciate it on an objective level, I didn't expect to connect to it all that much emotionally. Well, I was wrong. It proved to be one of the most emotively powerful films I've ever seen, and as a result I felt absolutely floored by it. It is a film about an inherently dark subject that, whilst never trivialised or ignored, is never allowed to feel overwhelming or exploitative, and what instead rises to the top is a story of a relationship between mother and son that thrives despite grim and desperate circumstances. The film's focus is firmly set on the themes of love, growing up, sacrifice and perseverance, as opposed to the criminal aspect of the story, and much of its success on an emotional level comes from angling its focus this way.

Based on Emma Donoghue's 2010 novel of the same name, the screenplay for Room was adapted and written by the author herself, ensuring that the essence of what made the book such a success is transposed well for the screen. The film follows Ma and Jack, a young mother and her son, who live inside Room - a fortified garden shed they are forcibly kept inside after Ma was abducted seven years prior by a man they refer to as Old Nick. Despite their confinement, Ma has done all she can to give her son as normal a childhood as possible, although for him everything between the four walls of Room is all he has even known. To him, everything outside of his home is "outer space", and the images he sees on television are nothing but make-believe. The film is told largely from his perspective, with his narration describing how he sees his world, and it is because the film is presented through his eyes that the horrific reality of their situation never feels suffocating - with Ma able to largely shelter from him abuse she endures from Old Nick, he still maintains a youthful innocence, and it is his worldview juxtaposed against the grim nature of what the audience knows has happened to him that gives the film a heartbreakingly emotional essence to it. You can't help but be charmed by his take on his world, but you can't forget why he's stuck inside Room either.

The role of Ma is wholeheartedly embraced by the increasingly-impressive Brie Larson, who after a superb leading role in 2013's Short Term 12 looks set to take home the Oscar this year for her turn here in Room. She brings to the part a motherly nature that is entirely convincing, with the love her character holds for her son being shown brilliantly both by how happy he clearly makes her, but also by how heartbroken she is by the fact they are unable to leave their prison. She wants to make Room as loving an environment as possible for Jack but the situation is so dire she loses her patience at times, and whilst Donoghue has crafted a convincing, three-dimensional character here with her story, Larson deserves every award that is surely coming her way as she manages to deliver such a wide array of emotions in a variety of ways from start to finish. Alongside her is Jacob Tremblay, only 8-years-old at the time of filming, who manages to match his co-star's brilliance throughout, and I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that he puts one one of the best performances from a child actor I've ever seen. Wide-eyed and inquisitive yet fearful of the wide world that has presented itself to him, Tremblay manages to excel in every aspect of his role, and his progression in the second half of the film is so impressive in its nuanced yet deeply affecting nature.

Ultimately, the performances from both Larson and Tremblay are so terrific in the first half of the film that by the time the second half rolls around, you find yourself incredibly engrossed and totally invested in their story, and it is during the latter stages that Room is able to hit so many high notes. Some of the smaller moments in particular - such as Jack's first meeting with a real dog, or when he tells his grandmother he loves her - prove incredibly moving and heartwarming, whilst the fallout from their ordeal feels grounded in its authenticity and draped in sadness as it soon becomes apparent that both Ma and Jack were always going to find it tough to adapt to their new surroundings. This harsh truth is exemplified in a number of deeply affecting ways, with Ma's father's inability to look his grandson in the eye knowing due to the nature of his conception proving to be a deeply upsetting moment, and it is sequences such as these are vital to why Room works so well. The gravity of what has happened to both of the two main characters is never ignored, and their respective journeys - both with and without each other - feel all the more rewarding as a result.

Altogether, Room is quite simply one of the most moving pieces of cinema I've ever had the chance to see and the on-screen relationship between Ma and Jack is one of the most touching and convincing examples I've ever seen put to screen. Its greatest successes are the performances from its two leads and the manner in which it captures a sense of wonder and discovery despite its bleak premise, and it really feels like a truly life-affirming piece of work capable of connecting with an audience like few films are able to do. Experiencing Room for the first time moved me like I don't think any film ever has done before, drawing out of me an incredible array of emotions over its two-hour runtime. Its a simply stunning film that should tug on the heartstrings of even the most cold-hearted of cynics.

Callum liked these reviews