By: Samar Khan
Every few years, there comes the type of film that launches either a complete newcomer or typecast actor into a new stratosphere. Matthew McConaughey was the most recent and popular example, with his “McConaissance” of 2011 onwards changing audiences’ perception of him from a rom-com only lead into an award-winning dramatic maestro. For your newest example of an actor/actress that is now about to be launched into conversation with the Meryl Streeps and the J-Law’s of the world, watch Room. This is Brie Larson’s coming out party into the Hollywood upper echelon.
Before delving into Larson’s bonafide Oscar-worthy effort, a quick spoiler-free recap of the film is required. Room is a film, based on a novel by Emma Donoghue by the same name, about a 5-year-old boy and his mother who are kept captive in a titular room for 5 and 7 years, respectively. Growing up within the isolation of the room, Jack perceives the real world to be whatever is in his room; he has no idea what awaits outside until the final act of the film. Suffice it to say, the film does a marvelous job building up the story of two characters in one room for nearly 90 minutes. It’s a testament to the direction and actors that such a feat was accomplished.
Brie Larson has been gaining Oscar buzz for her role in the film and it is entirely earned. Known usually as the quirky girl from Scott Pilgrim and the World and 21 Jump Street, her role as a young mother –named Joy- taken from a normal life and shunted into an isolated room is not one every actor can handle. The facial expressions that convey the pain inside of her are accompanied by the absolute joy that she has when spending every waking moment with her son, which are in turn supplemented by scenes where a mother’s anguish about losing her son are all brought to life with remarkable ease by Larson. When an actor can make you believe that they are an entirely different person, get the audience immersed entirely within the character while forgetting about their existing filmography, that is when they have succeeded in winning over an audience. Brie Larson does just that and her performance alone would have been enough to warrant Room a very high grade.
Not to be outshone, co-star Jacob Tremblay as Jack turns in the remarkably poised performance uncommon for actors his age. It can easily be argued that he put up just as good an effort as Larson, and will undoubtedly earn himself Oscar buzz in the coming months for bringing to life the story of a precocious young boy that has to adapt to everyday life after spending his first 5 years in complete isolation. He displays a wealth of emotion and whether a particular scene called for distress or utter joy or expressions of horror, Tremblay succeeds in immersing the audience into the life of his character.
The way the two play off of one another is what elevates the film. Larson’s Joy suffers from numerous difficulties since her abduction but after the birth of her son, she finds a reason to live for him. A plethora of emotional scenes between mother and child had the audience sniffling, delivering a strong message about the love for her child that can carry a mother through the most difficult of circumstances. As the film’s second act consists of life outside of the room, the tone of the story changes from adapting to life within the room to the outside world and the role reversal of sorts that occurs is brilliant to witness. After being Jack’s rock within the room, Larson’s character is the one that needs assistance adjusting to life outside and she gets there due to the poised and willingly adaptable demeanour of her son. Another way to put this: the film is almost entirely about the relationship between a mother and a son in isolation and in the outside world. The way director Lenny Abrahamson executes his vision is what should entice everyone to go and view the film for themselves.
Speaking of Abrahamson, the man that directed the beautiful indie flick Frank in 2014, his talents are once again on full display. Having read the source material by Donoghue heading into the viewing, to say Abrahamson does justice to said material is an understatement; his film was an extremely faithful adaption of the New York Times Bestseller novel. His direction is accompanied by the absolutely gorgeous work of cinematographer Danny Cohen, who manages to do so much with so little. To illustrate, the film makes a point of heading back to the titular room in its conclusion; there, the audience witnesses just how miniscule said room actually was. It’s a testament to the talents of the director and cinematographer that they manage to beautifully change the audience’s perception of the room by the end of the film. It sticks with the theme of the film: within the room, the concept of an outside world was foreign hence it seemingly so large. Outside of the room, looking in, it is no bigger than a small shed, effectively demonstrating just how big the world was that Joy and Jack got to experience after leaving.
The final technical detail to be discussed concerns the music and/or soundtrack. Rarely can one say a film that almost entirely avoids implementing a background score or some other accompanying sound uses sound so wisely. Room is that exception. Abrahamson and co. decide to allow the silence to speak for itself, accompanied by the occasional breathing or yelling that adds a layer of realism to the film. When a score is utilized in bits throughout the film, it is thoughtfully placed and avoids being overwhelming; rather, it makes the audience appreciate the excellence of the film’s ambient sound and the limited soundtrack that much more.
If I had a complaint about the film, it would have to be with the inconsistent use of the supporting cast introduced within the second half. Joan Allen is absolutely wonderful as a grief-stricken mother that gets her daughter back after 7 years but her spousal counterpart in the film, William H. Macy, is woefully underutilized. For a legend of Macy’s calibre to receive as little screen time as he did despite the promise of a larger role after his introduction in the second half, it hurts and left a minor plot point feeling unresolved. Other than the disappointment of Macy’s limited role, Dawson, Cas Anvar and Tom McCamus are excellent in their roles.
So, after all of that praise, very little remains to be said that my absolutely glowing review cannot cover. Fantastic acting, wonderful cinematography and direction accompanied by a well-placed used of sound. Definitely one of the top 5 best Hollywood films released in 2015 thus far, it is a must see for all that appreciate acting at its finest or just want to appreciate how valuable the bond is between a mother and her child.
With the misty-eyed feelings (it was an emotional film!) affecting me during the writing of this review, I am presenting the film with an excellent A score.