‘Room’: Engaging psychological drama (IANS Movie Review: ***1/2)

Film: “Room”; Director: Lenny Abrahamson; Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, Tom McCamus and William H. Macy; Rating: ***1/2

A gripping and intriguing drama based on Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name, the film is complex and thought provoking. It is simple yet profound, and small yet grand. It is a unique vision that is powerful, arresting and well executed.
It is an emotionally powerful tale of a mother-son relationship that hits extreme highs and lows and everything in between. It transforms from a perfect survival thriller into a hauntingly conflicted psychological drama of loss, mourning and gradual resurgence.
Narrated from five-year-old Jack’s point of view, the film encapsulates his world, the confines of a single claustrophobic room, a place where he was born and lived all his life with his mother who he fondly calls, “Ma”. She is the only person he has ever intimately interacted with other than inanimate objects like the wardrobe, table, toilet and the sink.
Director Lenny Abrahamson intricately portrays every waking moment they spend in the room with flourish. He strikes a fine balance of the tale with the plainly elegant visuals. Except for the escape scene which was clumsily executed, the film is well packaged.
The first act is a bit tedious, yet fascinating. The daily routine within the four walls of the room keeps you hooked with anticipation.
Tension builds up when Jack is forced into his mother’s escape plan after she finally decides to tell him the truth of their existence. The second act when Jack discovers there is life beyond the room is absorbing.
The young Jacob Tremblay as Jack delivers a wonderful, heart-rending performance, offering the curiosity and innocence of a child with a complex wariness of the unknown. Constantly differentiating between what is real and what is imaginary, he is believable. It is touching to hear him say, “I love you Grandma”, or, “Are we on another planet?” when they escape.
As his mother, Brie Larson offers a credible glimpse of a woman whose bond and love for her son overrides everything. “If you don’t mind it, it does not matter,” that’s how she builds her son’s defence mechanism. Her performance covers a wide range of emotional states that one empathises with.
Of the supporting cast, Joan Allen as the deeply relieved and emotionally shattered Nancy – Jack’s grandma – William H. Macy as Nancy’s ex-husband as Jack’s difficult Grandpa, Tom McManus as Nancy’s new partner Leo and Wendy Crewson, as the talk show anchor, are brilliantly impressive. They live their parts to perfection.
Sean Bridgers in a thankless role of ‘Old Nick’, the nasty guy who is responsible for Jack and his mother’s state, delivers with subtlety that is certainly worth a mention.
Cinematographer Danny Cohen does a fine job with his wide angle lenses and tight close-ups in capturing production designer Ethan Tobman’s muted colour setting. His frames calculatingly exasperate our sense of space.
Stephen Rennicks’s background score elevates the viewing experience.
Overall, the film may not appeal to a few who are looking for an escape thriller with lively performances and brilliantly colourful visuals. But it definitely wins hands down as a slow, emotionally provocative film.