Room ★★★★½

"And things happen, and happen, and happen, and they never stop."

Jack was wearing masks years before they were cool. Be cool like Jack. Wear a mask.

One of the most-watched films by the Letterboxd community that I hadn't yet seen -- and prominent entry on my "List of Shame" -- is director Lenny Abrahamson's Oscar-winning Room, starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.

(I think because so many have seen this, I'll skip the plot summary. Apologies for the breach of tradition.)

This concept had to be so challenging to film and capture in the way Abrahamson does. We've seen movies or at least large portions of movies about people kept captive for long periods, years or perhaps their whole lives. Often though those works are presumed to be horror or suspense thrillers, and while there are tense moments in Room it's truly an intimate drama about motherhood and the world through a child's eyes. A world that for the first five years of Jack's life is entirely within one room, with no context of the outside world. Imagine being this mother, and how Joy turns this squalid shed into something livable despite the harrowing circumstances of which she is fully aware. Larson said it herself in commenting on the film: "[It's] a story of love and freedom and perseverance and what it feels like to grow up and become your own person."

To that end, you can see the constant anxiety of not only the trauma Joy undergoes nearly every night by Old Nick's sexual assaults, but the daily challenges of maintaining the lie for her son, to keep him safe and to prevent his curiosity from putting them in danger. And when she finally reveals the truth, and their attempt to find a way out fails that night… imagine the pain of telling your child everything he believed was a lie, then he knows reality, and now it's back to captivity. Would you try again?

I don't know how I avoided hearing anything about the plot of this movie for nearly 5 years. Thank goodness, because it's surprisingly riveting, and incredibly emotional, especially that miraculous moment that -- if you were to assume the film was no more than its first act -- seemed so utterly implausible not long before. Emma Donoghue's screenplay, adapting her own novel, is spectacular. I don't want to spoil it for the handful of you who don't know more about Room aside from its initial high concept, but rest assured that it's an emotional roller-coaster and went in surprisingly turbulent and difficult directions, a depth and narrative which I appreciated.

Larson is incredible in her Oscar-winning performance, embodying the undying spirit of every mom who has to fight for their child's life in the worst of all possible worlds, and still a young woman whose adolescence and adulthood was stolen from her. And what a crime that Tremblay didn't earn a Best Actor nod. He's absolutely amazing, and even perfect in the brief moments of internal monologue and narration.

There are very few things I can think of that possibly could have improved this film, as I watched an utterly heart-wrenching story unfold in ways for which I wasn't prepared. Huge leaps of faith were undertaken to write and direct this, and Donoghue and Abrahamson deserve all the praise in the world.

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