In Room, Brie Larson is a mother who is desperate for one thing: her son's safety. If you have not seen this yet, I suggest not reading the review until you have. Suffice it to say, this is a film that is best watched with total attention, as you will be warped into it's brooding atmosphere.
The movie open's through a child's perspective. Larson's son, Jack (played amazingly by Jacob Tremblay) is celebrating his fifth birthday. His only notion of the world is the room he lives in. He has no idea what the real world looks like because he has never left this room. Neither has his mother. Confide to limited space that would make U-Boat sailors groan, ordinary daily routines are fairly simple: wake up, eat breakfast, take a bath, read books, eat again, and sleep.
Sounds pretty normal so far? You have no idea the context of this story. Every evening there are thundering footsteps. Mother hides son in closet so she can talk to this mysterious man. Often we only hear grunting from him. Who is he? What is his purpose? Is he the landlord? Husband? Is he the boy's father? These questions are soon answered as the movie develops into a eerily paced version of cat and mouse.
The footsteps are from a man who goes by the name Old Nick. Mother and son have been kidnapped by him. She met him randomly one evening, and suddenly found herself trapped in this set with no way out. Her son belongs to him, but he wants limited involvement.
The second half of the movie involves the plotted escape. The fact that the mother and son do escape does not spoil this review. It is how they cope afterwards. And how the people around them cope too. Her parents, played by Joan Allen and William H. Macy, are understanding yet a bit perturbed. The father especially, cannot look at the son in the face. It's hard to watch sometimes.
What makes Room work is the splendid direction by Lenny Abrahamson (who was nominated for an Oscar), and the extraordinary performances by the whole cast, with Larson as a clear standout. I was reminded a lot of Jodie Foster's performance in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) watching Larson unfold this inhibition of fear. She does so splendidly, and will win the Oscar for Best Actress for 2015. Tremblay is also a powerful match, and the movie really is about his perspective of what is real and what is not. He handles a lot of gripping scenes like a pro. Sean Bridges, as the terrifying Old Nick, should also get some praise for portraying his character with limited ambition, yet his sustained brutality is what makes it all the more scary.
Room is a triumphant film, both in atmosphere and acting. Abrahamson's nomination is completely deserving; every year, the academy's director's branch chooses one nominee who can handle intimate environments with a strong cast. In 2014 it was Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher. This time, it's Room.