Room

Room is the little indie that could. Released to critical acclaim but meager audience interest, it had been slowly chugging along at art houses for three months before I finally caught up with it, shortly after it received surprise Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, along with a less surprising nomination for Best Actress. These accolades are precisely why I decided to finally see this thing before it left theaters. And I wasn't alone.

In a nutshell, Room is about a young Ohio woman (Brie Larson) who has been held prisoner in a shed since she was 17, and her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay), sired by the woman's kidnapper/rapist, who knows no other world outside of the shed, which they call "Room". I hesitate to give too much away, but I think it's okay to reveal that the story concerns both the duo's time in captivity and the complicated aftermath.

Emma Donoghue adapted the screenplay from her own novel. I haven't read the book, but I assume it's written in the first person, from the son's point of view, as that's the tone of film. Yet this approach is neither twee nor melodramatic. Donoghue and director Abrahamson (who previously helmed the messier and ultimately more fascinating Frank) keep it real, literally: you get the feeling that everybody associated with Room wanted the story to be believable, and it is.

However, although I was often moved while watching the film, it curiously has not stayed with me. This is just my own experience; I expect that others will be haunted by Room for years. But while I found no fault with it – other than Stephen Rennicks' sweet but uneven score, which varies from winsome to mawkish – I simply didn't find it that memorable. This is partly because the story peaks in the middle and then, by necessity, slows down for the second half. Also, while Larson puts in a solid performance, there is something generic about her – I can never place her face – and I get a sense that dozens of other actresses could have done equally well in the role. That's not a random snipe: acting is an art form, and like all good artists, the best actors make unexpected and unique choices that make their work special. And I don't see any specialness in Larson's performance. Tremblay, for his part, is remarkable, though as with all child actors, one can never tell how much of the performance is simply following direction, and how much comes from within.

I don't want this review to end on a nit-picky note. Room is filled with stirring scenes and subtle moments and is definitely worth watching. You may well love it.