According to interviews, Brie Larson cut off nearly all contact with the outside world and held herself to a strict diet for her role as Joy, a captive mother in Director Lenny Abrahamson’s sophomore North American release, Room. It’s certainly a stretch for the once child actress of the short-lived Raising Dad, whose steadily rising career has seen a slew of comedic appearances in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, 21 Jump Street and this summer’s Trainwreck. Strangely enough, Larson’s sitcom stint was perhaps the now-26-year-old’s most valuable facet when opposite to young Jacob Tremblay, as the duo boasted an utterly profound chemistry – propelling Emma Donoghue’s already heartfelt novel and adapted screenplay to one of the year’s finest dramatic films.
Room follows, or rather watches for roughly one and a half thirds, a mother (Larson), who we only learn much later is named Joy, raise her 6-year old son Jack (Tremblay) in a shed – unnervingly equipped with the bare essentials – of a sexually abusive captor by the nickname of Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). Yet, from Jack’s birth Joy taught her son through a carefully constructed web of adolescently exploitative lies, that room, as they refer to it, is all that exists. It’s a plot ripe for a gritty survival, feminist, disturbing, and provocative visions but Abrahamson opts for a different approach. This isn’t to say none of those elements exist within the film, but rather that their used sparingly in the director’s more relationship-driven perspective – effectively echoing Donoghue’s original vision.
The creative pairing trade flashbacks and dream sequences for raw, uninterrupted life in room that boldly encapsulates 94 of the film’s 188-minute runtime. The shed’s cold interior is wearied on the eyes, Jack and Joy’s various crafts applying faint signs of life, and as we are left to witness a darkly beautiful incubated snapshot of a mother-son relationship; the anger, the amendments, the curiosity, the tears, the laughs. And surrounding it all are four unforgiving walls, which, once knocked down, the simplest joys of a boy and a dog, bedrooms, family dinners make for some of the most uniquely liberating cinematic moments of recent memory.
Anchoring it all, as alluded to above, are Larson and Tremblay. Whether she’ll be contending for the supporting or lead statues come February, the actress will surely further ignite the already heated categories. Flexing shades of hostile, warm, and selfish motherly love, Larson further dissects the archetype – highlighted in an visibly aching scene, with the same feverish suffering of childbirth as she’s separated from Jack during their trick of Old Nick. Even in Abrahamson’s slew of lingering frames, Larson is illustratively commutative: deniably perplexed as she ponders her guilt, and solemnly reliant when she’s engulfs Jack either squeezed into the single bed or curled up together on the floor.
Unfortunately, her absence is felt during a distinguished final act, with Tremblay expected to tap in when his bliss, confusion and bashfulness were amplified by Larson’s motherly palate. Thankfully, Tremblay is supplied the handicap of the script’s powerful worldly wonderment, with every social and personal revelation merely providing the proverbial cherry on top. Most the dramatic is weight is also alleviated by a trio of solid showings from Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus as various members of Joy’s family. Allen, however, is gifted the brief replacement of Larson, employing a muted version of Joy’s motherly range – Jack’s sane guide to the new world. Though, as displayed in several, explicatively varying scenes, Allen, like audiences, prove Room will leave no one unaffected.
FINAL CUT: Room thrives on Larson and Tremblay’s heart wrenchingly genuine encapsulation of an incubated mother-son relationship; Abrahamson and Donoghue crafting a dialed-in and boldly invested creative foundation.
Room receives a 4.5/5