Harrowing tales of triumphant former kidnapping victims can devolve into cloying, Made-For-Lifetime quality pap pretty quickly, so it’s remarkable that Lenny Abrahamson’s new film Room remains grounded, realistic and captivating throughout its entire run time.
Brie Larson plays Joy, a 17 year old kidnapped and imprisoned by an assailant known only as “Old Nick”. Joy’s hopelessness and Stockholm syndrome has kept her, along with her and Nick’s now five-year-old son Jack (impressive newcomer Jacob Tremblay) in Nick’s clutches for almost eight years, confined to his shed behind a large metal security door locked by a numbered keypad.
Joy has kept herself and Jack somewhat well-adjusted by convincing him that the “room” where they live is all that exists of reality, that all the other people, places and things on their beat up old CRT TV are make believe and everything beyond the skylight is outer space. But when Nick’s continued money woes cause “room” to lose heat and power for several days in the middle of the winter, and with Jack getting old enough to question cracks in the artifice, like a mouse in the shed and their captor’s strained involvement in their existence, they concoct a dangerous plan to escape.
Aside from the considerable acting talents of Larson and Tremblay, both in Oscar worthy turns that run the entire emotional gamut extremely convincingly, Abrahamson’s ace in the hole is Screenwriter Emma Donoghue, adapting her own critically acclaimed 2010 novel of the same name. You may even be fooled into thinking this was based on true events, again, given the refreshingly matter of fact portrayal of subject matter that could be easily sensationalized to the point of melodrama, and that’s thanks to the smart writing just as much as the flawless performances.
Some small gaps in logic mar an otherwise exceptional presentation. Spoilers, I guess, but how the cops figured out where Nick lives was a bit of a head scratcher, especially when they could’ve just as easily had the dog walker who discovers Jack simply remember his license plate number. But if you have to resort to nitpicking like that in order to be even marginally critical, you know you’re experiencing a truly special piece of art.
Room opens in limited release on October 16th and nationwide on November 6th, but will debut locally as part of the 24th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival on October 23rd .