There’s a moment in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, while you are already reeling from one of the most tense scenes on film this year, when everything washes over you in a tidal wave of emotion, relief, and uncertainty. It is the film’s most memorable moment—though there are many in this incredible tour-de-force—and it is also the reason why ‘ is one of the films you must see this year.
Joy (Larson) was kidnapped off the street when she was seventeen, and for seven years she has lived in “Room,” a garden shed in the backyard of her captor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). For five of those years she has shared Room with Jack. They get supplies every Sunday when Old Nick delivers them, and aside from him, the television is their only hint that a world outside exists. Joy has taken it upon herself to sugarcoat the cruel truth to Jack, as she essentially has him believing that there is nothing else out there. But, after their escape, she has to introduce a wide-eyed five-year-old to the massive world we live in.
Without a doubt, Brie Larson is a name that everyone will soon know. For those who did not catch her incredible—though wrongfully—snubbed performance in Short Term 12, she is a remarkable young actress. This is no easy role, and there are some places that Larson goes that are hardly went to in any other movie. Some scene’s show her at her absolute end as she struggles to keep her sanity when there is seemingly no hope in sight. It is a heartbreaking, beautiful performance that is handled with the grace and composure that even some seasoned performers can’t muster.
While Larson is tremendous, the same can also be said for young Jacob Tremblay as Jack. At the age of 9, it is astonishing how good this kid is. We see the world through his eyes—at times it is deeply overwhelming, but at others it is simply beautiful. He is a kid who has had the wool pulled over his eyes for his entire life, and once he steps outside it is a surreal and profound moment as we—like him—have the air sucked out of us in one fell swoop as he gazes up into the sky. Is it weird that I want him to be nominated over some other actors who have already had their chance? Probably. But after you see this kid you’ll understand.
The scene mentioned in the beginning is the turning point in the film as we shift from extreme confinement to total freedom. The moment also represents the highest emotional point we come to, and unfortunately for the film’s sake it comes at the halfway mark which makes the second half feel a little jarring at first, but the film remains anchored in its own reality as it handles the rest of the story with care and precision. Old Nick is never represented as some nightmarish being who comes in the night after their escape to haunt them, but his presence is still felt as the two come to terms with their new lives.
What propels the movie forward is the anticipation of their great escape—and once that’s come and passed, there is no sense of where the movie actually wants to take the audience. This is fine since we are captivated with the recovery, but it does feel a little off until you understand that there is no final destination, it’s just about rebuilding and moving on.
Room is a film full of wonder, hope, love, and family—and, while there are some scary truths, they are never exploited in a way that tarnishes the serene beauty of the story. With a masterclass turn from Larson,—who cements herself as one of the most consistently excellent actresses today—a stunning performance from Tremblay, and the immense emotional payoff, Room is far and away one of the best movies you will see this year.