We’ve come to expect the unexpected from the eclectic films of indie filmmaker Ben Wheatley, as his rule-defying style can twist and mould genre conventions to fit his dark directorial visions. His latest project, which he co-wrote with his wife Amy Jump, is 70s crime caper Free Fire. The action unfolds over just one night in a derelict umbrella warehouse in Boston, Massachusetts. When business associates Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) team up with facilitator Justine (Brie Larson) for a dodgy deal with Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Ord (Armie Hammer) and their squad of gun-runners, the tension is palpable. Not even so-called allies fully trust one another, let alone enemies so when an argument breaks out, a brutal shoot-out ensues.
Adapted from Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel of the same name, filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson directs abduction drama ‘Room’. Brie Larson stars as Joy Newsome, a young woman held captive with her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), and who has been imprisoned in a garden shed for seven years. With a skylight providing her only glimmer of light, she is malnourished and depressed. The narrative picks up the story on Jack’s fifth birthday as Joy, or ‘Ma’ as he calls her, decides that he is grown up enough to find out the truth about why they live in ‘room’, what has happened to her and why they desperately need to escape their evil captor (Sean Bridgers), whom they refer to as ‘Old Nick’.
Despite the horrifically morbid subject matter, there is always enough light to balance out the dark due to the clever narration and camera work which presents the small world they inhabit through Jack’s naive outlook and innocent perspective. The pace starts off slow and steady, as we, the audience, adapt to Joy and Jack’s very limited routine, and it is this careful character development and emotioneering that makes it all the more breathtaking when they take matters into their own hands. The amazing events around halfway through briefly suggest that the plot has peaked too soon, but themes are switched and the film moves in a new direction which explores both the aftermath of Joy’s trauma and Jack’s awe of his new experiences and discoveries.
For too long, Brie Larson has been mostly restricted to supporting roles but now she has the material she deserves and gives a superbly judged, emotionally charged performance in what appears to be a very challenging part to play. Also putting in an extremely mature turn is nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who is utterly phenomenal as Jack. The type of performance he displays is not dissimilar to that of Onata Aprile who stole the show in ‘What Maisie Knew’ a couple of years ago, which looked at divorce through the eyes of the child caught in the crossfire. The mother-and-son bond Larson and Tremblay conjure up is always believable and brings about genuinely moving scenes between the two.
We are just a short while into the year and already there is a frontrunner for the best film of 2016. ‘Room’ can be a harrowing watch at times but is powerful, essential cinema, and boasts two magnificent performances that are worthy of all the praise they will no doubt receive. Lenny Abrahamson takes a complex and controversial story and handles it sensitively, creating a remarkably rewarding film in the process. As far as I am concerned, there is no room for improvement.
See the trailer: