TajLV’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film #17 of 30 in my March Around The World | 2016 Challenge
Dublin director Lenny Abrahamson set up production in Toronto to make this claustrophobic drama based on Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue's 2010 novel. It features Brie Larson in an Academy Award and Golden Globe winning performance as a hostage named Joy Newsome, who was kidnapped seven years ago by a man she calls Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) and locked away in a shed as his sex slave.
Joy is not alone in the tiny room. She gave birth to a son named Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who has just celebrated his fifth birthday in captivity. He knows no other life, but his mom comes up with a plan to get him out by pretending to be dead. Surprisingly, it works, and Jack manages to fall into the custody of the police. Super-clever Officer Parker (Sean Bridgers) questions him till she gets an idea of not only what's been going on, but also where. In a matter of hours, they find the shed and free Joy. Incredible.
But what's more incredible is that the film is only half way done. Because everything is completely new to Jack, he's like an alien observer of the world. Every texture, every taste, every sight, every sound, every smell is a new exploration. Stairs are a challenge. Ice cream "hurts." And there are doors simply everywhere.
Although Joy's mother Nancy (Joan Allen) and her new husband Leo (Tom McCamus) are happy to have her back along with their new "grandson," it's not the same with the boy's natural grandfather Robert (William H. Macy). He can't seem to look Jack in the eye and won't talk to him directly. But the boy makes progress, thanks to his curiosity, and he even befriends Leo.
So it appears that Joy may be the one with some real problems. After ten days of freedom, she wants to sleep all the time and shows no interest in going out of her mother's house. Her temper becomes short and she begins getting angry at Jack for continuing to cling to her. She also gets in a shouting match with her mother that does nobody any good.
To earn money for legal fees and reestablish herself, Joy agrees to do an exclusive television interview. But the reporter asks her some hard questions -- many of them of an ethical nature, which had not even crossed her mind during her time as a prisoner. Did she lose faith in God? Would she reveal the truth about his father to Jack? Did she ever consider asking her captor to take Jack away and leave him to be found for adoption so he could have a normal childhood?
Larson certainly delivers her part throughout, and the Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay come well deserved. But I did feel something of a letdown in the second half, as if the world opened up, but not quite enough -- no contact with old friends, not much exchange with doctors and Robert let off the hook far too easy. A very good film, but not quite the excellence I had hoped for.
Listed among Films Nominated for Best Picture