HELL IS FOR CHILDREN Brie Larson, left, tries to make the best of a life turned upside down in ‘Room.’
Based on one of those stories you don't even want to think about, Room is adapted from Emma Donoghue's novel—which, in turn, is sourced from the real-life ordeals of women kidnapped and imprisoned in makeshift dungeons. In this story, 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-by-10-foot shed in an Akron, Ohio, backyard. Jack is five and it's Joy's seventh year in captivity. Not knowing her rapist's name (Sean Bridgers), she calls him "Old Nick," as in Satan.
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 room like Pee-wee's Playhouse. Every piece of furniture has a name. He's satisfied at being the complete focus of a mother's attention. But the love and tears this movie has drawn from national audiences eludes me; the film's turn toward healing and therapy comes on so quickly that it seems 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. The clean suburbs and the orchestrated score insist on a happy ending for the kind of story that never ends joyously.
'Room' is playing at Summerfield Cinemas, 551 Summerfield Road,
Santa Rosa. 707.522.0719.