TIFF 2015: Room
In addition to being one of the films we were most excited to see, Room ended up being the sleeper hit of the festival, selling out all of it’s Big Theatre shows, and winning the People’s Choice Award along the way, and with good reason. We’ve heard nothing but praise for the two main actors in this film – and if an Oscar nod doesn’t come their way it would be a shame. A celebration of love, this film is no-holds-barred emotional powerhouse, and one of the most affecting films we’ve all seen in a long time.
Finally a film at the festival that knocks it out of the park! After days of disappointments and mediocrity, along comes Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. Larson has pushed herself into extraordinary acting territory with her remarkable performance as Ma and young Tremblay has been able to grasp the content and meaning of the film at a deep enough level to understand what his character is going through. These are some of the most emotional and genuine performances we’ll see all year. There are moments of riveting brilliance, particularly during the escape scene that hit like a punch to the stomach and leave you in tears.
Brie Larson is up against some stiff competition this year in the Best Actress category but I hope this film takes her straight to the Oscars. It would also be quite something to see Jacob Tremblay recognized for the revelatory performance he has given. I’m sure it’s difficult for him to fully comprehend but it truly is exceptional.
I make it a point each year to watch something that will absolutely rip my heart out, Angelina calls it Emotional Porn. This was exactly the ticket. I’ve used this quote before in my last-year review for A Second Chance (another heart breaker), but it’s 100% true for this film too: When you have children they “carve something out of you, a place for themselves; people can twist the knife in that spot, and it just bleeds and bleeds.” I cried event harder at this film than the one last year, even though the entire story is uplifting, and full of love. I was initially skeptical of the story being from the perspective of the five-year-old son, Jack, but now having seen it – understand that the story couldn’t be told any other way. This isn’t about Ma (portrayed perfectly by an unrecognizable Brie Larson), it’s about Jack – about his strength, his fear, his discovery of the world, and their love for each other.
No doubt, as a parent, I have a slightly unique perspective or emotional connection to the film. But I think the same could be said for anyone that has any kind of relationship with a child. In fact, most of the comments from the audience were from Grandparents, or people with nieces & nephews. This film is about celebrating the love we have for children, and never, ever doubting that they can be more courageous, smart, and resilient than us, and admire them every day for that.
There was a fantastic Q & A for this film, with director Lenny Abrahamson shedding light on the film-making process. Strong casting right off the bat was integral for this film – they had to find child that could both look related to Brie as well as make the innocence of his character seem real and unaffected. Months were spent on set prior to shooting, with Brie and Jacob becoming acclimated to each other and to the Room itself. Many of the Room’s decorations are a result of that time spent there. Brie and Jacob became very close, which aided in keeping the young boy engaged in the process. Brie would reach peaks of emotional energy, which she would sustain through cuts while Jacob was wrangled. I can’t imagine that level of difficulty, and it is great testament to her skills as a performer.
One of Abrahamson’s goals was to capture the “claustrophobia of parenthood” as well as captivity. He and cinematographer Danny Cohen knew that they could not cheat with the sets, that removable panels would change their own sense of the space. Room was constructed to scale, and they had to get very inventive with their angles to hide the cameras. At times Abrahamson said he’d find himself directing the cast from inside the bathtub. I applaud this effort, as the shots and angles that resulted are intimate and help to create the sense of Room as a world unto itself. When the world itself is finally revealed to Jack it feels impossibly big in comparison. It all comes together to create a tense and beautiful presentation.
I don’t doubt that there is a different experience to be had when watching this movie if I was a parent, but I still found this film profoundly affecting. Perhaps I relate more to Joy’s struggle to find a sense of normalcy in her conditions, to gain a sense of control in an uncontrollable environment.