By Kathryn Whitney Boole

The brilliant performances of the stars of the film “Room,” Brie Larson and Joseph Tremblay, underscore this extraordinary movie. Larson did extensive research on the true account and book on which the film is based, and reached deep into her own experiences to flesh out her role of “Ma” (as her son calls her in the story). Tremblay is a natural, and the bond between him and Larson is palpable. These two actors carry the whole story.  However, some of the most striking details of the film “Room” lie under the radar in the extraordinary supporting performances, the superb casting, the excellent sound track and the emotionally packed production design.

Irish director Lenny Abrahamson has a unique background to bring to the table. He studied physics and philosophy at Trinity College in Dublin and graduated with First Class Honours. While there he directed several short films just for fun and realized that this was the work he was meant to do. His first feature, “Frank,” won awards. For “Room,” Abrahamson has gathered a team including editor Nathan Nugent and composer Stephen Rennicks, both of whom worked on “Frank.” Abrahamson rounded out his crew with seasoned cinematographer Danny Cohen and veteran production designer Ethan Tobman.  Together these artists have made an unforgettable film.

William H. Macy appears only in a few scenes and hardly speaks. Yet in those few flashes of the camera on his face, he is able to convey the incomprehensible mixture of horror, pain, anguish loss and guilt of a father whose daughter has been missing for years. Sean Bridges, as the evil “Old Nick,” underplays the role so perfectly that he appears to be as normal and vulnerable as the people we see every day as we move through our lives.  Canadian actor Tom McCamus, in a small but key role, expresses an introspective look when he first appears, leaving the interpretation of his motives wide open — is he a warm and fuzzy bear of a man or troubled soul harboring twisted thoughts? Joan Allen shows toughness, warmth and the strength to stay true to herself as the mother who has to shoulder this tragedy.

I found “Room” to be not depressing, and not as frightening as I had feared. On the contrary, it was uplifting. As Larson noted in her live discussion following a screening, “Room” is on the surface a story about a girl who has been stolen and locked in a garden shed by her captor for years. However, the girl creates a life in these seemingly inescapable surroundings, and through her incredible resilience, she flourishes and nurtures her son with genuine love. The story is filmed so simply and truthfully that it becomes a universal story of survival, human bond, growth and hope.

Go to see the amazing work of Larson and Tremblay. Be pleasantly awestruck by everything else.

Rated R. 118 minutes.

Awards watch:  Golden Globes – three nominations, one win (Brie Larson, Best Actress in a Motion Picture); SAG Awards – two nominations, one win (Brie Larson, Best Actress in a Leading Role); Independent Spirit Awards – three nominations; Oscars – four nominations

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at kwboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.

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