Robbie Collin recently wrote about the Academy’s lack of appreciation for child actors and he’s got a point, you know. While Brie Larson may have picked up most of the statuettes, Room is very much Jacob Tremblay’s film.
Nine-year-old Tremblay plays Jack, son to his loving mother Joy (or Ma) and their abusive captor, known simply as Old Nick. Lenny Abrahamson and his writer Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the novel, choose to tell this horrific abduction story from Jack’s five-year-old perspective. It makes for a thoroughly unique take on this kind of narrative, even if they never fully commit to this approach.
You see the sense of POV remains rather understated throughout. There’s a sense of child-like wonder to much of the film, but the camera only really assumes Jack’s viewpoint on a handful of occasions, with at least a couple of them making for really beautiful moments. It’s a shame, in the end, that we’re not given more of these flourishes.
The majority of the flourishes are instead left to the strong cast, as the visual qualities remain attractive but firmly distant. Larson is very good, as is Tom McCamus as her mother’s partner (especially in a couple of beautiful moments with Jack), but it’s Tremblay who steals the show. Jack is wonderfully written and Tremblay is undoubtedly very well directed, but there’s a mesmerising quality to his performance. Not wanting to count any eggs before they hatch, but this kid is going places.
As a result, even very solidly worked elements can seem lacking in comparison. In the end, the film suffers from having too much dramatic potential. It tries to cover a handful of different sections to this story, when it may have been a more rewarding experience focusing on just the one. I don’t wish to spoil anything for those of you who have managed to avoid the trailers but, if you have seen the ads (even in passing), little of the first hour or so will surprise you. Shock, quite possibly, but not surprise. Instead, it’s when the film moves into new territory that Room really comes into its own.