Unspeakable, unfathomable, unthinkable, but here we are at “Room.” A widescreen romance between a mother and her five-year-old son (Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay) held captive in hundred-square-foot confines, Lenny Abrahamson’s intimate thriller, adapted by Emma Donoghue from her novel, is stark yet tender, managing to find salvation after lightly indicated but genuine horror. (Think the primal scene, again, again, still, again, in terrible sound if not pornographic image.) Larson’s portrayal of the maternal instinct in almost unimaginably awful circumstances is a force of nature, unnerving screen acting of a high order. Young Tremblay is her worthy counterpoint, not only holding the screen, but the frame with Larson’s long-suffering, intricate performance. There is a world outside “room,” and the boy’s stilted phrasings—“I can’t see the outside side”—are the tenderest bruises. “You know what’s outside the room?” Mom asks before the planet changes. “Space!” Tremblay exults lightly, then without a breath, shifting to an infinite fact, spoken with cool terse wonder, “The world.” Holy fuck. That moment among those other moments. “The world.” With Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, William H. Macy. 118m. (Ray Pride)
“Room” is now playing at River East and Landmark Century and goes wide on Friday, November 6.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.