I’d stupidly picked up a copy of Emma Donoghue’s Room in a used bookstore and put it back on the shelf, thinking the premise was too strange. Then I saw the chill-inducing trailer for the film adaptation, immediately went back to that shelf, and read the story in a day. Donoghue wrote the screenplay while the novel’s manuscript was still in the process of being purchased, and her dedication to the story is a rare treat. Jack (Jacob Tremblay) is a five year old boy who believes the room he and his mother, Ma (Brie Larson), live in is the entire world. As the film progresses, one learns how the two became stuck in “room,” and though the film leaves out the most grueling parts of the book, the intensity remains. A couple who’d clearly never read the book (and maybe never saw the spoiler-filled trailer?) exclaimed disbelief through the entire thing: “No way!,” “That’s not gonna work,” “Omigodisthisforreal?”
The book is told from Jack’s point of view, and the film manages to include his thoughts in poignant voice-overs and several beautiful, scary POV shots. Director Lenny Abrahamson also does a decent job making one feel cramped alongside Jack and Ma, though it wasn’t as claustrophobic as I would’ve liked. I came in ready for Diary of Anne Frank shots. The score was loud and applicable in more open spaces, but I’d wished it didn’t play in room – I loved the silence. Better than any positive element though (and there were many) were the performances. A scene between Tremblay and Tom McCamus about cereal made me cry, Joan Allen (as Ma’s ma) was breathtaking, and Larson is receiving praise for a reason (though her character has a name other than Ma in the film, why?). Her fascinatingly intentional performance is simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring, and at last the indie goddess is being noticed by the Hollywood powers that be. Many think she’ll win the Best Actress Oscar which is made more wonderful by the fact that in one scene, Larson sits underneath a poster of young Leonardo DiCaprio – a real contender for Best Actor. What does it mean, what does Abrahamson know?! We’ll see come February 28th.