[Screen It]


(2015) (Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay) (R)

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Drama/Thriller: A young woman must contend with being held captive for the past seven years in a single room by a man who's the father to her five-year-old boy who's never seen the outside world.
It's been seven years since Joy Newsome (BRIE LARSON) was lured by a man to help his dog, only to be kidnapped by that man. Known only as Old Nick (SEAN BRIDGERS), he keeps her locked in a single, small room with a lone skylight in the ceiling. His weekly visits for sex has resulted in Jack (JACOB TREMBLAY), who's now five-years-old and has never seen the outside world except for a few over the air television channels. Needing to protect him, Joy makes the boy stay in the small closet when Old Nick shows up, and has concocted a partially made-up story about the outside world that she hopes he can understand.

Despite having unsuccessfully tried to escape in the past, she concocts a new plan. Despite the inherent dangers, it works, and both she and Jack end up free. But both must then contend with life outside that room, including that Joy's mom (JOAN ALLEN) and dad (WILLIAM H. MACY) are now divorced and she's now living with Leo (TOM McCAMUS). As Joy and Jack end up staying with them, they try to acclimate to their new situation, with Jack having to deal with things that are both new and foreign to him, while Joy suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
I've long wondered when or even if humanity will evolve to the point that people stop doing horrific things to others. I'm not just talking about wars. genocide and other such events that take thousands and sometimes millions of lives.

Beyond such reprehensible acts, there are the mass shootings, other single murders, rapes, sexual and domestic abuse cases and more that make headlines daily, and sometimes make sane, non-violent people ponder what's happening.

And then you occasionally hear about other incredibly heinous acts, the kind where victims experience such violence and horror for months and sometimes years, that you wouldn't be wrong for thinking we're often our own worst enemy.

Such was the case regarding Elisabeth Fritzl, an Austrian woman who had been held captive by her own father in a single basement room for 24 years where he raped and fathered seven children (another died a few days after birth), three of which he and his wife raised while the other four survived the ordeal along with their mother in that lone room.

That case inspired Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue to write her 2010 novel, "Room," about a similar ordeal where a woman is kidnapped by a stranger, held captive for seven years in a backyard shed, and repeatedly raped, resulting in her now five-year-old son who's never experienced anything outside of that room.

That acclaimed novel, that I have not read, has now been turned into a feature-length film of the same name, with Donoghue adapting her own work into screenplay form. Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay star as the mother and son who live in the cramped quarters where "Ma" has tried to raise her son to the best of her abilities, mixing reality with fabricated versions of what exists outside "room."

Cinematically telling a story in one setting is hard enough, and director Lenny Abrahamson has the challenge of doing so in a tiny room, where the only other space is a small closet with slatted doors. Yet, all involved manage to pull it off, thanks in great part to the stellar performances by Larson and Tremblay (who's now nine). Both could likely earn Oscar nominations for their work, and they have a believable chemistry together that, coupled with their characters' plight, prevents the film from suffocating under its single set premise.

Following the lead of the book, the story eventually has them get out from that confinement where they must contend, in their own ways, with such freedom. For Jack, it's all about experiencing the strange "new" world for the first time. For Joy, it's certainly PTSD and related guilt and uncertainty about how she acted (a point driven home during a TV interview she does), but also the interaction with her now divorced parents (Joan Allen and William H. Macy).

Interestingly enough, the film loses a great deal of steam once it moves from its earlier confines into a world of multiple settings and numerous people beyond the only other person in her life for those seven years, her abductor (played by Sean Bridgers).

While I understand and appreciate what the filmmakers were going for in the post-release section (including the thematic elements of a child having to grow up and give up the imaginary elements that fueled his early psyche), the story and thus my interest in how things would pan out started to wane. Mind you, Larson and Tremblay are still solid during this section, as is Allen and Tom McCamus as her genial and understanding husband/boyfriend/partner.

It's just that the pic works better while in the titular location, and I wonder if those parts should have been lengthened a bit so that the escape could have concluded the offering and thus left the viewer to imagine or wonder what happens next. Others might not have the same reaction, but I think "Room" might have been better had it stayed put. Nonetheless, it's still good enough to rate as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed October 6, 2015 / Posted October 23, 2015

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