Room ★★★½

I'm guessing that the best-seller garnering power of Emma Donoghue's novel 'Room' was the first-personness of its first person narrative. And that this person, five year old lifetime captive, Jack, provided such a unique viewpoint through which to examine the wonder of our humdrum existence.

Such locked in POV would prove challenging for any cinematic adaptation. Those that tackle such constraints head on (such as Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) inevitably push themselves into arthouse territory. Lenny Abrahamsson's approach (adapted by Donoghue herself), limits Jack's perception to a few key scenes and some esoteric voiceovers (which I imagine mirror the novel's language); it brings indie cred and some clearer air for an emotive performance by Brie Larson as Jack's kidnapped Ma but ultimately leaves Room meandering in low-key drama.

When it hits its highs, Room is astoundingly effective. The film's pivotal scene, which progresses it out of it claustrophobic first half, is a rush of pure emotion. Abrahamson works the moment with everything at his disposal, especially the fracturing performance of young Jacob Tremblay (who's been rather annoying up to that point). From there it is a downhill run though. The narrative energy dissipates, as do whole characters - where did William H. Macy disappear to?

The family drama that Room slips into doesn't deliver on the film's premise or its promise. Perhaps an adaptation that needed a little more distance.