In the psychological drama, 'Room,' a mother and son live as captives, though the little boy doesn't know it.

A ROOM FOR TWO: Room is adapted from Emma Donoghue’s novel, which is sourced on real-life ordeals of women kidnapped and imprisoned in makeshift dungeons.

Based on one of those stories you don’t even want to think about, Room (not to be confused with Tommy Wiseau’s nonpareil The Room) is adapted from Emma Donoghue’s novel—which is, in turn, sourced on the real-life ordeals of women kidnapped and imprisoned in makeshift dungeons. Joy ( Brie Larson) and Jack ( Jacob Tremblay) are in their own world. They have to be, given how they are walled up in a windowless 10-foot by 10-foot shed in an Akron, Ohio backyard. Jack is 5 and it is Joy’s seventh year in captivity. Not knowing her rapist’s name, she calls him, like Satan, “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers).

Larson’s impressively focused acting never lets you blink—she’s bonded in a tight inner circle, with the superb, young Tremblay. Whenever director Lenny Abrahamson has the two together, he never goes wrong. He handles even the risky and macabre portions of the story—such as the scene of the monster, Nick, whining to his prisoner that he’s been laid off and has suffered unemployment for the past six months.

The truth is that Jack is relatively happy. He treats the the room like Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Every piece of furniture has a name. He’s satisfied at being the complete focus of a mommy’s attention—what kid wouldn’t be?

The material seems made for a short, two-person film—the French movie, Just Before Losing Everything, suggests how well you could build the tension up to the eventual escape. But the love and tears this movie has drawn from national audiences elude me; the film’s turn toward healing and therapy came on so quickly, it seemed indecent. Even performers like William H. Macy and Joan Allen (as the parents of the kidnapped Joy) can’t transcend the simple melodramatic roles they’re cast in. And the direction is even flatter for the various police, doctors, lawyers and journalists who come out to help get Joy back into the world.

Strange coincidence that this movie came out the same year as The Wolfpack. But the clean suburbs and the orchestrated score insist on a happy ending for the kind of story that never ends joyously.

R; 118 Mins.
Aquarius, Palo Alto


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