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Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Screenplay: Emma Donaghue

Country: Ireland / Canada

Runtime: 118 mins

Cast: Brie Larson (Ma), Jacob Tremblay (Jack), Sean Bridgers (Old Nick), Amanda Brugel (Officer Parker)

A tender mother-son relationship is the focus of this tale of captivity and its aftermath

Recent years have brought to light several cases of women being kept captive by men, most notoriously in the case of the Austrian Josef Fritzl who kept his daughter captive in a basement for 24 years. She bore seven children as a result of his abuse.

In Room Emma Donaghue has adapted for the screen her own novel of the same name, which itself was inspired by the story of five-year old Felix in the Fritzl case. The film begins with young Jack (Jacob Tremblay) walking around a small room saying hello to various objects. It turns out to be the morning of his fifth birthday and his mother, Ma (Brie Larson), bakes him a cake. However, there are tears when Jack discovers there are no candles for the cake. Gradually, we discover that Jack and Ma are being held in captivity, and are living on basic rations supplied by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). He turns up in the evening and slips into Ma’s bed, whilst Jack sleeps in a cupboard.

To young Jack, however, their room is the whole world. He has never known a life outside and Ma has kept from him the truth about their situation. His only knowledge of anything external to the room is the sky, which is visible through a skylight, the sole window.

Eventually, Ma arranges an escape from their prison, but adjustment to a new life is not at all straightforward.

At the time the story starts, Ma has been led captive for seven years. Thankfully, perhaps, we are spared the details of her capture and of the abuse she has suffered.The focus of the story is on the mother-son relationship, both before and after captivity. This is beautifully depicted by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. The latter is in reality a few years older than the boy he plays, but has deservedly garnered awards and nominations for his portrayal of a child whose entire understanding of the world is suddenly turned upside down.

Brie Larson is likewise utterly convincing as a mother who will do anything to protect her child, but who then struggles to adjust once she has obtained the freedom she craves.

For most of us it is almost impossible to imagine the travails of someone who is kept in illegal captivity.  But with Room, Emma Donaghue and director Lenny Abrahamson have given us a glimpse into such a world. With its emphasis on the psychological effects of captivity and its aftermath, the film makes clear that the title word has connotations beyond its physical meaning.

Rating: 5/5

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