'Room' movie review: Larson shines in a heartbreaking, tender must-see drama
Indie actress Brie Larson ("Short Term 12," "The Spectacular Now") will surely punch her ticket to the Academy Awards nominations list with her incredible performance in the tragic, sweet and heartbreaking drama "Room" (expanding to select cities Oct. 30).
In short: Five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has lived his entire life within the confines of a small shed with his young mom (Brie Larson) -- who was abducted as a teen. But after a daring escape, Jack explores the vast outside world while his mother deals with life after years of being held captive. (Watch the trailer)
The framework of "Room" works because its foundation is based firmly on the beautiful and intimate dynamic between Jack and his mother. If only the Academy had a Best Acting Pair award, then Tremblay and Larson would win hands down. This is surely one of the best acting duos of 2015 - and arguably the very best of the year.
Larson delivers a stand-out performance in this tale of a woman who has to be strong for her child, yet is still very much a young girl herself. She is nurturing and vulnerable, strong and fragile. She fully realizes a multi-dimensional woman who is a mother, daughter, girl and survivor all at once. Her character is put into unthinkable positions from beginning to end -- even after she and Jack escape their prison.
Young actor Jacob Tremblay is the keystone of this entire film -- even with its inherently strong story and Larson's brilliant performance, "Room" hinged entirely on Tremblay's performance. And his performance embodies every hopeful and surprisingly uplifting aspect of "Room." He is blissfully unaware of the truly dark nature of his abduction. His sense of wonder and pure innocence adds and unexpected fairy tale-like tone to this potentially bleak drama -- effectively saving "Room" is from descending into truly dark territory.
Some could argue "Room" only gives a glancing blow to the true horrors the mother must have endured during his abduction. The audience never gets a good look at the abductor and he drops completely out of the story after the escape. This emphasis on the mother and son (rather than the kidnapper) cements "Room" as a survivor's story rather than a grim story about a specific kidnapper. The film effectively makes him the clear antagonist -- and smartly allows the story focus to stay on Jack and his mother's attempt to rebuild their lives.
Final verdict: "Room" is a dark, dramatic, sweet, harrowing, suspenseful, heart-wrenching and uplifting story -- a feat that few movies achieve. This absolutely a must-see drama of 2015, highlighted by a pair of breathtaking performances for its lead duo.
"Room" is rated R for language. This dramatic adaptation of the award-winning novel opens in select cities Oct. 30 and opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 6.