Brie Larson has been one of the most outstanding young actresses around and she does her best work yet here as Joy Newsome, a young mother who raises her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) within the confines of a single 10×10 room. Once a day, a man they refer to as “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers) comes to visit them and replenish the supplies of their limited living quarters. While the circumstances of their living situation and their relationship to “Old Nick” are best left for viewers to discover on their own, it’s enough to say that Joy is unhappy living in the room and plans an escape with Jack to the outside world.
Every note of Room rings true with a deep sense of emotional intelligence and that starts first at the story level. Adapting from her 2010 best-selling novel of the same name, screenwriter Emma Donoghue unfolds her tragic narrative at a perfect pace and finds just the right words for Joy and Jack to share as we learn about their complex relationship. Because their dialogue has to be filtered through the understanding of a five-year-old, the simple language that they use is often coded with deeper meaning and it allows for a rich subtext to develop within their conversations.
The acting by Larson and Tremblay is flawless and since we’re fast approaching Oscar season, I should mention that both absolutely deserve Academy Award consideration for their work. Not only are they completely believable as mother and son, they are equally convincing as two people dependent on one another to behave normally, despite their incredibly unorthodox living arrangement. The natural rapport between the two actors on screen is evidence of how much thought and detail went into creating these fully fleshed out characters.
All of these tremendous creative forces are anchored with unshakable poise by director Lenny Abrahamson, who was responsible for last year’s off-the-wall dramedy Frank. He clearly knew the challenges that would arise from adapting such difficult material but his ability to do so with such focus and care is the mark of a dedicated and impassioned storyteller. Heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure, Room is not only a beautiful portrait of young motherhood but also a harrowing testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.