Room - Online Review

'Abrahamson allows his leads to constantly take centre stage whilst he carefully builds up the mystery surrounding the circumstances in which Ma and Jack find themselves'.

Past experience tells us that child actors in prominent roles can either make or break a movie. A standout turn from a young star can lift a film several notches (see: Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense), whilst a poor performance can in the same way bring a film crashing down around them (see: too many other films to mention). Thankfully, Jacob Tremblay in Room falls firmly into the former camp, his astonishing performance emerging as key to helping the film past its handful of noticeable hiccups.

Said hiccups are relatively minor but also noticeable enough to hold Room back from being a true classic. The first is the event at the end of the first hour through which the film transitions from its opening section set within the self-contained space known as "Room", to the rest of the narrative which ventures beyond this setting. To give any further detail would be to spoil the story, but the way in which Emma Donoghue - adapting the screenplay from her own novel - moves from one set of circumstances to the other is the only point at which the film feels stretched in making its ideas completely believable. The disappearance during the second half of a key character from the first following this transitional sequence is also a decision which, whilst explained, feels convenient more than anything else.

The second issue stems from director Lenny Abrahamson allowing his execution to slip too far into sentimentality towards the end. It's a minor problem, but one which niggles all the more due to the fact that Abrahamson completely avoids such mawkishness throughout the vast majority of his film.

Picking holes in Room is unfair, however, when Abrahamson and his cast offer so much to like throughout. Tremblay is flawless, buoyed by his touchingly authentic chemistry with Brie Larson who is also excellent. Many of the scenes within the film's opening half are shared by the pair alone, with Abrahamson allowing his leads to constantly take centre stage whilst he carefully builds up the mystery surrounding the circumstances in which Ma (Larson) and Jack (Tremblay) find themselves. The way in which the world of "Room" is built up through Jack's perspective is masterfully achieved by both Abrahamson and Donoghue, with the film regularly proving impossible to fault during the opening hour.

Perhaps inevitably, once most of the questions have been answered by the beginning of the second half the film transforms into something slightly less interesting, but no less compelling. The support from Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Tom McCamus complements Larson and Tremblay's performances whilst allowing them to continue as the film's emotional core. Even though Abrahamson eventually allows schmaltz to creep in, there are moments earlier on in the second half where the director strikes just the right balance: the scene in which Jack meets Leo's (McCamus) dog Seamus for the first time is one of the most heartwarming you're likely to have seen for quite some time.




Room is currently playing on Amazon Instant Video.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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