Room Review: A Powerful and Occasionally Daring Survival Story

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We’ve seen a lot of individual survival stories in cinema as of late. None of them are quite like Room, the powerful story of a mother and son trying to escape a seven-year kidnapping.

Most of the film is from the perspective of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a five year-old boy who’s only ever seen what his mother Joy (Brie Larson) calls “Room.” His world is the very small quarters they are forced to call home. But it’s all he knows. Meanwhile, his mother was 17 when she was taken. Now she’s stuck pleasing her captor in the worst ways imaginable. Yet Joy never looks at her son as anything less than a gift. And now he’s old enough and smart enough to help.

The first half of Room creates real tension much quicker than even the best thrillers are capable. Once we’re introduced to Joy and Jack and their perspectives, things very quickly go intense. Larson and Tremblay cover a lot of ground in these early scenes, fully realizing their characters from the very first frame. From there, they take us through several of the most tense scenes in any movie this year.

Then we get to the second half and things, initially at least, get even more complicated and interesting. The film gets a chance to ask questions a lot of survival films don’t necessarily dare to. This is where Tremblay gets to do his best work. His view of the world is wondrously unique for the most disturbing reasons, and it carries the film through to the end credits. The scripts asks of a lot of this young actor, but he never falters, selling every moment as if every bit of the world he actually knew was in that room. His confusion paired with his perseverance is endlessly endearing. It’s too bad the same can’t be said for Larson’s Joy, who’s growth largely happens off-screen. Then the final moments try to sell a reward for her that the film didn’t earn.

But there’s no doubt that Room contains its fair share of powerful moments. It’s a shame that due to Tremblay’s age he may not see the recognition he deserves. This is one of the best performances of the year, one that largely save this film from its own confusion with its resolution. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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