Escaping Captivity

Room

room_ver2

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson, Cas Anvar

Brie Larson gives an Oscar-winning performance in director Lenny Abrahamson’s claustrophobic film Room about captivity, sexual slavery and the perceptions of children. Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, director Abrahamson whose previous credit includes the bizarre Michael Fassbender film Frank, delves deep into the emotional and psychological trauma of those affected by a harrowing experience set in suburban Akron, Ohio.

This experience is the abduction of Joy Newsome, known as Ma who is sexually abused from the age of 17 and kept in a garden shed, which becomes the room of the title and stays there for seven years. During her incarceration she gives birth to a son Jack who becomes her world. Cleverly Room does not dwell on the horrors of captivity or sexual slavery, but fluidly follows the perceptions of this enclosed world formed by the 5 year old Jack wonderfully played by newcomer Jacob Tremblay, who really is the emotional centre of the film and certainly should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Joy Newsome known as Ma, is superbly played by relative newcomer Brie Larson (The Gambler, Don Jon) in a stunning performance which has scooped every Best Actress award in 2016 from the Golden Globes to the Bafta’s to The Oscars.

The exceptional depth of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s talent is displayed in the first half of Room, which is entirely occupied by Ma and Jack as they eventually hatch a plan to escape when Ma realizes that Old Nick, played by Canadian actor Sean Bridgers, cannot really afford to keep them locked up forever.

That escape and eventual discovery of Joy Newsome is thanks to the bravery of young Jack who must unwittingly go into a world he has never experienced and escape, find the police and alert them of their disappearance and capture. Brilliant shot, Abrahamson keeps the tension of the first half of the film and Brie Larson is extraordinary as she must know convince her young son, Jack that the world comprising Room is not the Real World and he must shift his expectation from fantasy to an altered reality of what the real world actually is.

Audiences expecting a neatly tied up dramatic end to Room will be thoroughly disappointed as the second half of the film after their release dwells more on the emotional and psychological consequences of the mother and son’s shared trauma than on any legal or criminal investigation into their prolonged captivity.

Joy’s estranged parents Nancy and Robert played by Joan Allen (The Contender, The Crucible) and William H. Macy (Fargo, The Sessions) are suitably good in a nuanced underplayed way, especially as Robert cannot bear to look at the product of sexual abuse, his grandson Jack.

Room is essentially a parable about a mother’s bond with her child in a cruel and vicious world where each of them are confined by their own perceptions of the world and the roles they are meant to occupy as parent and child.

Room is a thought-provoking and harrowing tale of survival which will keep audiences talking for years, held together by brilliant performances by Larson and Tremblay. Recommended viewing for those that enjoy an intelligent and emotional family drama.

 

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