When it comes to a movie as phenomenally unique as Room, my advice is typically the same: go into the theater knowing as little as possible. Of course, this makes my job a little harder since I don't want to give away any major plot points, but the most important response to the film is simple.
It's a masterpiece, and you should absolutely go see it. It's heavy, emotional, and taxing viewing, but Room is easily the most engrossing film of the year so far.
*Some spoilers from here on out. I'll do my best not to reveal anything too crucial, but some discussion of the plot is inevitable.*
Though it hasn't even reached a nationwide release, Room has already gained a reputation for being this year's go-to tearjerker. While that may be true—I found myself flicking away some pesky droplets on more than one occasion—the Canadian-Irish drama is so much more than a melodrama.
Based on the best-selling book by Emma Donoghue (who also pens the script), Room is a torrent of raw feeling, palpable tension, and, above all, top-notch performances. As boldly complex Ma, Brie Larson announces herself as one of her generation's strongest and most interesting performers. Her character's been captured and sealed in a single-space room, but Larson's talent as an actress never feels confined.
Every eyebrow wrinkle, insistent glance, and motherly instinct feel like a masterclass in nuance as Ma attempts to navigate her hopeless situation. Her lifeline and sole companion is her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who's capacity for imagination is as endless as his untrimmed hair. They're trapped, but Ma doesn't want Jack to feel that way. For the sake of her son, she creates an entire world out of their demeaning setting, which results in an ever-changing bout with the limits of reality and imagination.
Not content to let Larson steal the show, 9-year-old co-star Tremblay emotes more with his nostrils than actors four times his age can do with their whole bodies. It's so rare to see a child actor wholly convey a character (so often it seems like they just respond to cues given from a director), but Tremblay is unbelievably believable as Jack. A kid who's never known a world outside of his small room, Jack's adolescence is still full of discovery as Ma attempts to shield him from torment. Tremblay gets the chance to cover a wide range of material, from impressionable child to precocious ally, and he is more than game for the challenge.
Despite Room's single setting, Lenny Abrahamson's direction never feels claustrophobic in the excruciating way Gravity or 127 Hours do, and that decision makes sense. Though Ma's suffering takes center stage, the world of Room is almost always perceived through Jack's eyes. Such a perspective fills a painfully banal space with childlike wonder, transforming what could be a simple tale of captivity into an elaborate triumph of the human spirit.
Experiencing these discoveries (a mouse, a tree, a knock at the door) alongside Jack is the pleasure in Room that makes all the pain worthwhile.