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Cinema Review: Room

Brie Larson may well have deserved the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in this intense, at times harrowing, movie (what arcane criteria are used when awarding such tinsel anyway?), but the kid, Jacob Tremblay, who was eight years old at the time of filming, is equally impressive – it is an astonishing performance by him. Joy (Larson) was abducted and imprisoned in a backyard shed for seven years, her captor treating her as a mere sex slave. She gave birth to Jack (Tremblay) during this period and mother and son lived together in the windowless, soundproofed room, with only a skylight connecting them to the shifting sky beyond their confinement. The first act, shot in a dull light, is claustrophobic and distressing. Now five, Jack is still seeking his Ma’s breast for comfort and is incapable of understanding that the images he sees on TV are anything other than magic. I worried that the movie’s stifling atmosphere might potentially be its undoing, but the day of Jack’s liberation, planned in advance by Ma, came as unquestionably one of the most emotionally charged scenes that I can recall from countless hours in the cinema (the ethereal guitar accompaniment, used to similar effect in Moneyball, is perfect). Director Lenny Abrahamson is not concerned with the monster who committed the crime; instead his attention lies with its victims and their reactions to their sudden change of circumstances. Though finally liberated, things threaten to go awry for Joy and Jack. Both have trouble adjusting to life with Joy’s mother and new partner – ‘Can we go back to room?’, Jack even asks. Further, in a softly-softly yet confronting TV interview, Joy’s maternal instincts are inadvertently shown to be perhaps not as noble as we may have credited. Above all, there is the reminder that, regardless of environment, we instinctively cling to that which sustains us, be it a person or, in Jack’s case, an inanimate object. This is not always an easy movie to watch – it’s morally and psychologically stressful – but the ultimate reward is quietly uplifting.  


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