An emotional Roller coaster
Holy crap. 2015 has been a ridiculous year for film. From Ex Machina to Spotlight. From It Follows to The Big Short. And now Room enters the fray. This film absolutely destroyed me. Throughout its 118 minute runtime, I cried seven different times. SEVEN TIMES. And warning: if you have a child about the age of Jack, you will basically be crying this entire film. That is powerful. Now, I was fortunate enough to be able to go into this film completely blind. I didn't watch any trailers, and didn't read any reviews about the film. So I knew nothing other than the fact that it was nominated for Best Picture. I will say right now.....you should go into this film blind too. You should stop reading this review right now and go see this film. It's worth it. Then come back once you have and we'll talk about it. Deal? Deal.
So, now that you've seen the film, let's talk about it shall we? This film is fantastic. It features hands-down the best performance of the year from Brie Larson, and Jacob Tremblay also puts in one of the best performances of the year as Jack. It features superb set design, with Room being meticulously recreated from author Emma Donoghue's imagination, and it features a second-half of film outside Room that's just as good as the first half. Let's talk about Brie Larson first. Yes, the hype around her is real. For years she has been killing it in supporting roles in films like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, 21 Jump Street, The Spectacular Now, Don Jon, and this year's Trainwreck. Well, to say she took advantage of her first major starring role is a ridiculous understatement. Her performance here is BY FAR the best performance of 2015. She has to invoke every emotion throughout the film and she does each of them to a spectacular degree. You can expect to see her at the top of my Second Annual Awesome Actors Awards receiving the "coveted" award when I unveil that in a week or two. However, not to be outdone by Brie Larson, you have Jacob Tremblay. This kid can freaking act. Keep in mind for the first half of this film you have Larson and Tremblay. That's it. And Tremblay is every bit as good as Brie Larson is. This kid is asked to do so much in this film. Not only that, but he's asked to perform in an extremely downplayed manner. Usually a child actor will be very pompous or a screen hog. Or worse they're unnatural and need to be pulled along by the rest of the cast. Well not here. Tremblay's performance was not only convincing, it was moving. There have been some who say he deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance. While there were plenty of snubs in 2015 (cough cough Black actors cough cough) Tremblay is definitely going on that list as another. Joan Allen is also excellent as the Grandma, though she is somewhat underutilized. Speaking of underutilized, William Macy! Pretty much my only complaint with this entire film is William Macy's character. I really wish we had one more scene with him and Larson/Tremblay. That's all that's keeping this film from being perfect. Just an extra 5 minutes of film to explain Macy's dynamic with the rest of the plot. Honestly at this point I still don't know if I'm giving this film a perfect score or not because I get that this story is not meant to be about the grandparents as it's obviously about Larson/Tremblay, but Macy's character was just so underutilized! I guess at least it's good to see an actor be underutilized instead of an actress for once. So there's that.
Everything else about this film is awesome. Director Lenny Abrahamson did a fantastic (and Oscar-worthy) job in the chair for this film, as his crew painstakingly recreated every little detail of Room. The second half of the film was meticulous as well, but Room was the big thing that needed to be done right, and it most certainly was. The music was also incredible, with the fittingly titled The Mighty Rio Grande by This Will Destroy You squarely in the middle of one of the most emotional moments in film of 2015. But what really impressed me was the second half of this film. The second half, outside Room, was just as good if not BETTER than the first half in Room. Jack's discovery of the world contrasted with Ma's coping of her ordeal had me in pieces. The pacing is spot-on, and the film never feels heavy-handed at any given moment.
What else is there to say about this film? I think I know what my score is going to be. Even though William Macy's character and the lack of insight there was a complaint I had, I would always say it takes two complaints to remove me from 10ville. But Room really is a perfect film. It has great direction, a phenomenal story, great set design, and some of the best acting of the year. Sure, the makeup/costumes didn't blow me away, but they didn't have to. And the cinematography was just fine. But that's all it needed to be. Maybe in 2016 I will revamp my ratings to try and encompass a larger range of categories (and thus make reaching that perfect 10 status significantly harder) but I'm not doing that right now. Room has the best fictional story of 2015, and thus it is a worthy 10 in my book.
The Critique: Featuring two of the best performances of the year from its grown up and child leads, Room is a fascinating and rewarding investigation into the effects of an inhumane situation on the mind.
The Recommendation: An absolute must-watch. Plain and simple.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect.