When I read Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room, a few years ago, it stayed with me for a very long time. Haunted me is more like it. The story of a mother who raises her five-year-old son – from birth – in a garden shed, held captive for seven years by the man she and her son call “Old Nick,” who provides the bare minimum of food and clothing while raping her whenever he stops by, Room was a knockout to the gut. Not only was it based on a true story that Irish author Donoghue fictionalized brilliantly, but it resonated in the present because of the awful case in Cleveland where the dog catcher or whatever he was held those three girls captive for years.
How could the mother – known as “Ma” in Room – nurture her child as beautifully as she did under such horrendous conditions? How did she come up with the escape plot that ultimately led them both to safety in the outside world? How did she adapt to life with her family? How did her son adapt to the outside world, when his only reality was the tiny space of the shed? It was book that both amazed and inspired.
Now we have Emma Donaghue’s own adaptation of her book for the film version, which won the prestigious audience award at the Toronto Film Festival and has earned raves. I add mine to the list. I absolutely loved the movie, disturbing and tense as it was.
Brie Larson, the actress with the breakout performance in “Short Term 12,” plays Ma and she’s great. You believe every word she says. You feel every emotion she feels. She’s the character in the movie, not some hot young actress playing the character. And Jacob Tremblay, the precocious young actor who plays five-year-old Jack, is a small miracle. What a face. What eyes. It’s been 24 hours since I saw the film and I can still hear his little voice, which Donoghue smartly uses in voice-over narration. I don’t know if the Academy will give him the Best Actor Oscar, but they need to nominate him along with Larson for Best Actress. Oh, and the movie should be on the list for Best Picture. In the supporting role of Ma’s mother, Joan Allen, who’s never given a bad performance that I’ve seen, was terrific too. There’s a scene with her and Jack in which she cuts his hair and he says, “I love you, Grandma.” I lost it and I wasn’t alone. Everybody in the theater reached for their Kleenex.
Highly, highly recommended.