Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

brie-larson-room-01-600x350I really didn’t want to see this film. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brie Larson and I heard nothing except great things about it. But I was wary of spending two hours in a claustrophobic environment with such a sad setup. But I’m exceedingly glad I did. Abrahamson has crafted (out of  Emma Donoghue’s novel and script) a lovely paean to both the resilience of the young brain and the brutal realities of PTSD. It could have easily become, and often teeters on the edge of, a Hallmark movie or After School Special. But the production team & cast manages to always bring it back to stakes that feel real, not melodramatic.

For the record, I have never understood the need to nominate child actors for major awards. Even the best child performances are based on not much more than a perfect script, a perfect casting director and a skilled (and manipulative) director. And, while I’m not ready to say I agree with him being nominated, Jacob Tremblay is an absolute wonder. He expertly transverses the two worlds of the film with spot-on disorientation and heartbreaking perfection. It appears he is already filming like 30 movies, according to his IMDB page, and we’ll be hearing from him as long as he chooses to do this acting thing. (Personally, I hope he takes a break in his early twenties so he can get a sense of the world outside the “Room” of Hollywood celebrity. Okay…getting off soapbox now).

As for the rest of the cast, Brie Larson, is, as ever, spectacular…although you could make the argument that she is a supporting character. Tremblay’s character, at least in the film version (I have not read the book), is the more emergent protagonist. WH Macy and Joan Allen fill in the gaps very successfully. But Sean Bridgers and Tom McManus are the supporting stars of the show for me (after Larson, obviously). Bridgers somehow makes the worst person on earth in to something we can relate to as not just a monster, but a very real and human thing. This is important in the context of the film, as it enables us to see him through the child’s eyes – a combination of necessary caregiver, occasional Santa and constant villain-in-waiting. McManus’ Leo is the anti-Bridgers. His patience and reactions to the action around him is just perfect – and I kept thinking of what it must be like for a dog who has been abused for five years to suddenly be adopted by a man who physically resembles the abuser…and the pace and care needed to build a new, and healthier relationship. Stunning work.

And kudos to Abrahamson for sticking with his preferred composer, (in much the same way that the Coen’s brought along the awesome, and now ubiquitous, Carter Burwell). Stephen Rennicks’ score is lovely, if slightly repetitious, and he’s worthy of becoming a regularly-utilized composer by the Hollywood establishment.

Listen I had some (very few) problems with the film from a critical standpoint, but NONE from a human point-of-view. It’s not an easy film to sit through, but it’s more than worthy of the effort. If for no other reason, see it so you can say you did when Tremblay becomes the next Leo.

Written 12/19, 2015

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