There are certain films which seem like they have been tailor made with the sole purpose to garner awards (Oscar bait if you like); some examples of these include The King's Speech, A Beautiful Mind, Shakespeare In Love and The English Patient. Then there are those that attract industry recognition but go down the indie route, often resulting in something more organic and natural in comparison. Recent examples include Whiplash, Boyhood and also 1997's Good Will Hunting. Room undoubtedly belongs to the latter category, although it's a mystery how it only managed to win one Academy Award - although undoubtedly deserved for an astonishing performance from Brie Larson - without any appreciation for young Jacob Tremblay? It's bewildering as without the strong emotional chemistry between Larson and Tremblay, the film would simply not be what it is. However, I don't really regard the Academy as a true indicator of a film's perceived quality, and Room has achieved plenty of deserved acknowledgement elsewhere in the supposedly less prestigious and/or less renowned accolades.
Loosely inspired by true events, Room is a perfect example of when direction, script and acting come together in perfect unison. Adapted from her own novel, Emma Donahue's screenplay is fantastic in the way it portrays how the most unimaginable of scenarios serve to create an unbreakable bond between a mother and her child, and later how external forces conspire to threaten that bond. Aside from both films/novels having a dark subject matter, there are also some similarities with Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl in how the over bearing influence of mass media coverage can impact upon characters. Where some films might end, Donahue's script is refreshing in that it takes its time to patiently explore the aftermath of a prolonged nightmare.
Irish director Lenny Abrahamson's direction is pitch perfect; especially in the first half of the film where the narrative switches seamlessly between optimism and despair, and colour scheme is applied to great effect in emphasising character perception during scenes alternating between warmth and bleakness. During a moment in the movie that arrives at a critical point in the plot, Abrahamson skilfully balances the nerve jangling severity of the situation, whilst simultaneously imbuing the scene with a real sense of wonder from the perspective of Tremblay's five year old Jack. For the young boy, whose existence has revolved around "room" since his birth, it's the equivalent of travelling into space. Kudos must also go to Stephen Rennicks haunting yet uplifting, piano driven score.
As Ma, Brie Larson rightly swept the board on the awards front, quite literally running through the gamut of human emotions over the course of the film. Room is a proper breakout role for the actress - I had previously associated Larson with less dramatic roles, as the only other film of hers I had seen prior to Room was 21 Jump Street, and her small role in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. However, equally captivating is Jacob Tremblay: a true revelation giving a performance that belies his tender years, and refreshingly "un-Hollywood." As Jack, Tremblay's voiceover narration provides much of Room's highlights - approaching every scenario with a unique perspective that can only come from a child's innocent view of the world. It's a real tug of the heart strings when Ma tells Jack some home truths; there is so much that he cannot comprehend, yet he knows enough to be afraid and go into denial mode. Here's hoping that Tremblay can have a long and fruitful career. In a supporting role, Joan Allen gives a tender performance as Jack's grandmother, with only William H Macy being slightly under utilised.
Every once in a while, a film will come along that will reach into your heart, tear it apart from the inside, before slowly re-building it piece by piece. Room is that sort of film. It's also the sort of film that says there are ways to find hope and optimism when all seems lost, even when things are as bad as they seem - imagine if David Fincher and Frank Capra had combined to make a movie. Forget about 2016's roster of disappointingly mediocre blockbusters, I implore any self respecting film lovers to make room for Room.
P.s. On a final note, if you have yet to learn much about this film, please avoid the trailers!