Written by Steve Kim.
Based on Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel, Room tells of the story of Ma (Brie Larson) and her diligent efforts to keep her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), safe and happy as they are held captive in a soundproof garden shed or “Room.” Soon after his 5th birthday, Jack’s curiosity about the outside world and Ma’s increasing worry prompt them to do whatever they can to escape. Adapted to screenplay by Donoghue herself and helmed by Lenny Abrahamson, best known for the critically-acclaimed Frank, Room is the latest offering from A24 Films, quite arguably the best independent film production company operating today (and also my dream employer).
Room was able to capture the essence of Jack’s juvenile innocence amidst his incomprehensibly harrowing situation just as well as the novel did. Brie Larson was incredible as expected, but Tremblay’s performance was really the linchpin that made the film work. From moments of unfettered bliss to absolute peril, Tremblay made it all so genuine and believable every step of the way. Here’s to hoping that he pulls off a Quvenzhané Wallis at next year’s Oscars.
Great performances aside, the meticulous set design in the first act was integral to the film’s believability. From the faces drawn on the power outlets to the stains on the rug, the make-up of the room painted a perfect picture of their situation and dispositions without having to resort to much exposition.
Abrahamsson and Donoghue managed to limit crime-drama trappings and overly sentimental schlockiness to a minimum. Instead, Room was driven by amazing performances, genuine pathos, attention to detail, and an inspired narrative.
What didn’t work?
Unfortunately, neither the cinematography nor the score lived up to the film’s overall substance. Both were regrettably typical, nowhere near adventurous, and held the film back from being truly great. Ironically, Abrahamson’s Frank was shot beautifully and boasted one of my favorite scores in recent memory.
I also felt that William H. Macy, the most accomplished person in the entirety of the credits, was a bit underutilized. Without revealing too much, his character’s outlook on the situation could’ve added an interesting dimension to the narrative, which does ever-so-slightly falter in the second act.
Minor issues aside, Room lives up its hype. As heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, Room is a well-paced, realistic rollercoaster of emotion with its fair share of thrills, anchored by remarkable performances from Larson and Tremblay. Fans of the book will not be disappointed either.