Actors shine in raw and absorbing portrait of confinement

Film Review

Published 23/01/2016 | 00:00

ROOM (15)

Home is where the broken hearts are.

In Lenny Abrahamson's riveting drama, based on the book of the same name by Emma Donoghue, a twenty-something mother and her child are imprisoned in a shed that has been their home since she was abducted at the age of 17.

Irish author Donoghue was inspired to pen this harrowing family portrait in response to the Josef Fritzl case.

Her skilful screen adaptation loses none of the raw emotional power thanks to two blistering central performances.

Brie Larson is sensational as the kidnapped parent, who has sacrificed everything to protect her child from what lies beyond the locked door that opens once a week when their captor delivers limited food and provisions in exchange for sexual favours.

She conveys her character's years of suffering in heartrending glances.

Equally impressive is seven-year-old Jacob Tremblay as the boy trapped in a living nightmare beyond his comprehension.

The emotional depth and maturity of his portrayal is jaw-dropping.

There's no hint of stage school artifice or cuteness that might break the grim spell conjured by Abrahamson - it's the best performance by a child actor since Anna Paquin in The Piano.

From the moment he was born, Jack (Tremblay) has only known the four walls and skylight of the squalid single room he shares with his Ma (Larson).

Every day when he wakes, Jack cheerfully addresses the furniture in his makeshift home.

'Morning lamp, morning rug, morning wardrobe,' he chirps, while his mother prepares a meagre bowl of cereal.

The boy is blissfully unaware that Ma was abducted as a teenager by a man called Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), who is holding them hostage.

Despite her ordeal, Ma protects Jack from sickening reality as best she can. A television is their only outlet to the outside world that the boy might never see.

'Where do we go when we dream?' asks Jack. 'We're always here," replies Ma. "In Room.'

After years of suffering, Ma concocts a daring plan to get Jack away from Old Nick and hopefully into the arms of her parents Robert (William H Macy) and Nancy (Joan Allen).

If the escape bid fails, however, the repercussions are unthinkable.

Room unfolds largely through the eyes of Jack and by adopting his innocent perspective, director Abrahamson navigates some choppy emotional waters with sensitivity and skill.

The on-screen partnership of Larson and Tremblay galvanises every frame, but this is an embarrassment of riches in front of and behind the cameras.

Donoghue's script is masterful and the simple, yet evocative, production design induces a sense of choking claustrophobia that has us biting our nails down to the cuticle in the hope that Jack at least might wriggle free of Old Nick's iron grasp.

RATING: 9/10

Wexford People

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