Room ★★★★

An examination of parenting and survival, Lenny Abrahamson's "Room" is a powerful, riveting drama. With two searing performances, the film is at once the story of a mother trying to educate, nurture, and protect her son and an allegory of sacrifice and abuse.

Starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, "Room" revolves around a mother and son forced to live in a single, small room while their captor provides them with food and utilities. Creating an entire world in the cramped quarters, the two exist to the best of their abilities until escape becomes a possibility.

The narrative's gimmick is the room itself and the idea that the pair are forced two exist in that tiny space. It is the film's marketable calling card but soon stands as the story's thematic catalyst and the foundation of the remarkably clear allegory. On one hand, it is the real world, the duo's home, and the only place Tremblay's five-year-old has ever known. It is a place of ironic safety and comfort. On the other hand, it is a prison that has kept Larson's young mother in physical and emotional custody for seven years. While she struggles to set expectations for her son that the world of television and the world outside of room are false, leaving room itself to be singular home, the room is also a place of horror. It represents the claustrophobic nature of abuse, a place in which the light of hope streams from a solitary skylight. Moreover, in its alternating shades of hope and darkness, it stands for parental sacrifice and reflects the things taken on by mothers and fathers as they fight to raise safe and smart children.

Abrahamson's film is small-scale and personal, but his cameras are able to make room an astonishing place. Both melancholy and hopeful, he visualizes room with authenticity and genuine color. It is a place of life and of loss made into a remarkable setting for the film's first half.

Elevating the film are the performances of its two leads. Larson creates a character who is layered and fully-rendered. Her trapped mother is weary, strong, sad, and smart. She is a nurturer, yet she is afraid. She is bold, and she is crushed. It is an excellent performance. Tremblay is more than solid as his five-year-old child. Never cloying, his performance is measured and genuine.

"Room" is a potent piece of work whose story and performances raise that work to gripping, fascinating, and heartbreaking levels. It is a smartly assembled and compellingly imagined drama with an impact felt well after the credits roll.

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