I’ve seen an awful amount of great films recently; anyone would think there’s a massive award ceremony on the way. It’s like all the good stuff has been kept locked away in a shed at the bottom of the garden and now it’s being released in one huge attempt to overwhelm the critics. Do you see what I did there? I made a grand metaphor about strategic release dates while simultaneously explaining the premise of Room. No? I’m wasted on you.
Room is the best film of 2015. That’s right; not The Revenant or Spotlight or the one with Matt Damon dressed as BB-8. Room. It’s a joyful little story about a mother and her son being held captive in a dingy shack by a rapist. ‘But the critics only like it because it’s miserable’, is what you’re probably thinking. Well it’s not, actually. It might sound like a grim horror story, suited to the likes of Hostel fanboys and aggressive masturbators, but it’s actually a surprisingly uplifting account of parenthood and the brilliance of a child’s imagination. See!
Brie Larson deserves her Oscar nomination as Joy, a woman who was kidnapped at the age of 17 by a man she calls “Old Nick” and held prisoner in his garden shed for seven years. As a result of rape, she gave birth to her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who is now five-years-old but has never experienced the outside world. In this small, squalid space, Joy – predominately referred to as “Ma” – has had to create a whole universe for Jack, one that goes in “every direction, all the way to the end”. The reality of it is that the microwave is within arm’s reach of the toilet.
Through Jack’s eyes, we see “Room” as something wondrous and not for the godforsaken sex cell that it is. Thanks to Danny Cohen’s immersive cinematography, everything appears as large to us as it does to Jack. The mangy walls are massive canvases for him to scratch drawings on, and the space under the bed is a cave for the eggshell snakes he makes with Ma. It’s only when his mother tells him that there’s more to life than “Room” that he begins to throw a wobbly, like a child who isn’t ready to stop believing in Santa.
Emma Donoghue adapted this from her own novel, but to many it’ll feel like it’s based on a true story, given its parallels with real-life abduction cases. But this still isn’t a thriller or, as Joseph Fritzl might call it, a romantic comedy. (The trailer and synopsis reveal the direction the film takes in the second half.) Instead, it explores the disparities between mental and physical freedom and how that impacts the characters individually.
So why do I place Room above so many other worthy candidates for Best Picture? It’s mainly down to the captivating performances of Larson and Tremblay. Their relationship as mother and son is more convincing than the one you have with your own parents. Stephen Rennicks’s powerful score is also responsible for making Room an utterly overwhelming experience, and I have no shame in admitting I was heavily affected by it. After it finished, I had to sit there and watch the credits roll for a few minutes until I regained composure. What a state.
One last note on the Oscars; if there’s any real oversight, it’s the lack of a nomination for Tremblay as Best Actor. People should know that a nine-year-old upstaged Leonardo DiCaprio.
Words by Chris Edwards
Chris’s Twitter @CMEcontent