Opens in Australia on Jan 28 2016
****1/2 (out of five)
Brie Larson has just won the Golden Globe for her lead performance in Room, an audacious and inspiring film, a coherent, complex and confident blend of arthouse experimentalism, mainstream thriller and serious drama. It’s one of the best films, easily, of this “Awards Season”.
Larson and Jacob Tremblay play a mother and her son living in extreme circumstances – they are confined to a small area (their “room”) in which they are obviously imprisoned. Occasionally, “Ma” is visited by a man they call “Old Nick.” When Jack, the son, turns five, Ma figures it’s time he found out the truth about the nature of “room”.
By turns arthouse experiment, tense thriller and family drama, and enormously moving, Room has a cumulative power. Inspired by a rash of lurid and horrendous crimes in the US and Europe (particularly a famous case in Austria), Room avoids tabloid sensationalism completely and seeks to explore its tremendously challenging subject with honesty. Although author Emma Donoghue, working off her own novel, has never spoken to any of the women who inspired Larson’s character, she has done her research, and is obviously committed to serious contemplation of trauma and its effect. Irish director Lenny Abrahamson (the film is an Irish / Canadian co-production, and Donoghue is an Irish woman living in Canada) shoots the script with reverence and invention. The first half is haunting, the thrilling bits are tense as hell, and the drama reaches sensitively into difficult spaces. An excellent, excellent film. Be advised: it may be too much for some sensitive viewers or survivors of trauma.