Room reviews

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Re: Room reviews

Postby FilmFan720 » Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:05 pm

I finally garnered the courage to put this in the DVD player this weekend. The book emotionally devastated me and having a 5-year old at home was making me weary of going through it again. That said, I found the movie even more wrecking than the book, and I think this is one of the great achievements of the year. Seeing that room, and how much smaller it is than in my imagination, was really difficult to grasp.

What especially shocked me is how masterfully Donoghue adapted her own novel. The way she tells the story visually, and transplants her narration into cinematic language, is remarkable. Especially when we move into the second half of the film, Donoghue makes some major structural changes to the story and it feels so organic and natural. This isn't just a movie put on screen (which you could get away with in this story) but a true adaptation into something new. So much of the credit goes to her, and her willingness to part with her original work, but should also go to that remarkable ensemble and Lenny Abrahamson.
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Re: Room reviews

Postby flipp525 » Thu Nov 12, 2015 2:10 pm

The Original BJ wrote:
flipp525 wrote: And then the scene where she's just rolled Jack up in the rug and is screaming at Old Nick to promise not to look at him.


One of the things I loved about Larson's performance in this scene was that the level of her emotion seemed ever so slightly forced -- she was clearly playing someone who was NOT an actor having to act an emotion she wasn't quite feeling, while knowing there would be huge repercussions if her performance wasn't believable to Nick.

This is just one of many scenes where the level of specificity in the actor's performance really shines, I think.

Oh, absolutely. There were so many layers there that had to be just right in order to make that scene work. And Larson hit them all beautifully. It's really a helluva performance.

One thing I forgot to mention: I went to see this with my book club (we'd all obviously read the book several years ago). We were all surprised by the age of Old Nick, having always pictured him older. He was still quite menacing and gross, but I'd just pictured him much older than the actor they went with. I saw someone like Brian Cox when I read it.

That said, I was happy to see that they retained the "through Jack's eyes" conceit of the novel which is one of its greater strengths.
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Re: Room reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Nov 12, 2015 2:02 pm

flipp525 wrote: And then the scene where she's just rolled Jack up in the rug and is screaming at Old Nick to promise not to look at him.


One of the things I loved about Larson's performance in this scene was that the level of her emotion seemed ever so slightly forced -- she was clearly playing someone who was NOT an actor having to act an emotion she wasn't quite feeling, while knowing there would be huge repercussions if her performance wasn't believable to Nick.

This is just one of many scenes where the level of specificity in the actor's performance really shines, I think.

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Re: Room reviews

Postby flipp525 » Thu Nov 12, 2015 10:19 am

I thought that Brie Larson was just phenomenal in this. The aforementioned scene where she's being interviewed by the reporter, aghast at her line of questioning is an obvious standout. But I'd also cite two other scenes that really stood out to me. One was, I believe, the only scene not seen through Jack's eyes and it's Joy alone in the dark at night crying - I believe this is right before she hatches her final plan of escape. And then the scene where she's just rolled Jack up in the rug and is screaming at Old Nick to promise not to look at him. I think she must be considered a serious contender for Best Actress this year and I'm ecstatic that it seems she's finally broken through. Interesting that with Jennifer Lawrence in the mix, there might be two characters named "Joy" duking it out. (edited to add: I posted this before reading Tee's post. But, yes, there are a ton of Joys this season!)

I had previously read the book, so although I knew that Ma and Jack would make it out (and how they would make it out), I was still on the edge of my seat during that entire escape sequence which I think is a real testament to the strength of the direction and the screenplay (written by the author herself).

Joan Allen was perfection in this. I worry that voters won't think she "does enough" in the movie to merit consideration but I think she really pulled off a tricky role, especially in her scenes with Larson where she's kind of tip-toeing around her daughter to straddle the line between the comfort she'd like to provide her and the questions she has about what Joy has endured. The moment when Jack reveals that he used to hide in the wardrobe when Old Nick visited was quite a moving moment.

In a year where they seem to be scrambling for candidates to fill out the Best Actor roster (I mean, Will Smith, seriously?) I think it's unfortunate that Jacob Tremblay's performance isn't being considered more seriously. He's just as dominant in the film as, say, Quvenzhané Wallis was in Beasts of the Southern Wild and she managed to place in lead. I thought he was just incredible--exerting control and authority of the space of "room" that is all he knows while portraying the expected level of naïveté about the mechanics of an unconsidered world outside its walls. His delicate foray into that world outside once they escape is very heartfelt and earnest. I appreciated his slow transformation and awakening to everything around him, especially as its set against his yearning to return to "room" which he misses. There were small ways this was also telegraphed that were such nice touches, too. There's one scene where he's built what looks like the shed in which they were imprisoned out of the Legos, even adding what looks like a skylight on top. Then he destroys it. So much conveyed in that small moment.

This is definitely an actor's showcase and certainly the best movie I've seen this season so far (keeping in mind that I haven't seen much).
Last edited by flipp525 on Thu Nov 12, 2015 2:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Room reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Oct 28, 2015 1:22 am

Well, I pretty much loved this.

IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS FROM ABOUT THE HALFWAY POINT OF THE MOVIE -- AND YOU SHOULDN'T -- STOP READING NOW

Actually, I was like Sabin: speaking with the friend I went with afterward, I kept referencing "the first half hour"; I'm shocked as well the time inside the room was that long.

I have so many feelings about the film, it could take me days to work up a truly coherent piece on it. For now, some bullet points.

It was like two movies -- in the room/at home -- with a bridge: the escape scene. But it was also like two interrelated dreams, with themes carried over and intertwined. Because of that, I don't think of it as a small effort; there are so many currents running through the post-rescue section -- often referring back to things we'd observed in the first -- that it felt like a major, poetic piece of work to me, whatever the simplicity of the circumstances.

I knew there were other actors in the film, so I guess I assumed they'd be leaving the room at some point -- which helped some; otherwise I might have felt permanently trapped, like I was in a Saw movie. But I had no idea at what point the break would come, or what the result would be, so I found the escape scene close to heart-stopping -- would the kid roll out in time? would Old Nick recapture him? and then, would they rescue Joy before Nick went back and killed her? Seeing Brie Larson emerge from the shed was a huge relief.

To go back: that opening segment is beautifully detailed, giving us first the day-to-day routine of the shared life, and only slowly the horrifying details of why they were there, and who they were to one another. Jack is believably drawn: he's someone who's grown up in extraordinary circumstance -- a wild child, almost -- but also at moments just an irritating, wants-his-own-way kid. And Joy is both a devoted mother and, at other moments, the teenager who was forcibly ripped from her normal life and never allowed to grow naturally into adulthood.

Both these elements come into play in the film's second portion. Jack has to go back to square one in certain ways: learning to deal with such everyday things as going down a staircase. But he's young enough to adapt, even if he does it slowly (and has to along the way discard some of the fairy tale notions by which Joy protected him in his earlier years). Joy, it turns out, has the more difficult task: unlike Jack, she had a pre-conceived notion of what normal life should be, and she knows she hasn't had it, but has no idea how to get back to some semblance of it. So, she falls much harder than Jack does, and, in a certain sense, Jack has to parent her back to normalcy, including taking her back to the room and de-mystifying it. (A thought I had: could this whole story work as a metaphor for pregnancy/post-partum depression? A woman is "violated", finds a child suddenly with her, changing her whole life and how everyone looks at her?)

There's so much more to the film, as well: The way so many things are conveyed to us elliptically -- the break-up of Joy's parents' marriage that BJ mentioned; the fact that Macy clearly can't accept as a grandson the fruit of his daughter's being raped; the way Jack's offhand "when Old Nick stayed over" clearly offers Joan Allen details she's not yet heard from Joy. The film also deals nicely with the idea of what makes a parent, given that Leo -- with no blood tie to Jack -- is the one who makes the first connection to him, even while Macy has run off. (This supports Joy's answer to the interviewer, that Old Nick wasn't Jack's parent -- and, something she left unspoken, might even have killed Jack) There's even a slightly comical aspect to Joy's argument with her mother -- the vitriol in the scene arises from their unusual circumstance, but it's not far off from the kind of fights anyone might get into with their parents if they were suddenly forced to go back and live with them in their mid-20s. (With all that fragile glassware around, it doesn't look like the warmest household.)

Isn't it odd to have three movies (this, Inside Out, and Jennifer Lawrence's to come) with main characters named Joy?

Speaking of which...Brie Larson is close to magnificent. She doesn't strike a false note throughout -- right through to her perfect delivery of that final line. And the kid is amazing -- as usual, you don't know how much to credit the director for a child's performance, but he shoulders his full load of the movie. And Joan Allen is pretty perfect, as well.

I can't think of a recent year where I've been less confident about how the Oscars might go at this point in the season. But I will say I'm rooting for multiple nominations. I think Larson and the script are gimmes, but I wonder if the directors might be impressed by Abrahamson's work within that confined space for the opening section -- as well as his subtle, utterly unsentimental work in the latter portions. And I'd be fine with film and supporting actress, as well.

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Re: Room reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Oct 26, 2015 12:25 am

The Original BJ wrote
As I said, it's a little movie, but a beautifully acted one, and full of emotional resonance. I'd love to see it become that tiny-movie-that-could in this year's awards race.

For the bulk of the film, I was thinking that this could happen. Then we reach the final scene, the camera cranes up, and I couldn't help but feel "Oh, that's it?" I was moved constantly, I teared up on more than one occasion, and yet by the end of the film I couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed. Maybe that's not going to matter with voters because time and time again they honor the movie they think they saw rather than the one they did. I could very easily see that happening with Room.

I couldn't tell you how long the two of them actually spent in "Room". I'd be interested to know. I'd imagine it was only the first half hour or so [NOTE: holy fuck, it's like fifty minutes!] but it's very strongly plotted out. I was more surprised at how the remainder of the film focused on understated readjustment into the real world. It doesn't build to incident, only closure, which reinforces in my mind that at heart Room is more of a premise than a story.
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Re: Room reviews

Postby Kellens101 » Tue Oct 20, 2015 8:08 pm

I love Brie Larson. She's turning out to be such a wonderful young actress. First Short Term 12 and now this. I also quite liked her on United States of Tara.

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Re: Room reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:42 pm

I think Room has the potential to be the kind of little movie that people strongly recommend their friends seek out -- by its very nature, it's small in scope, but I found it consistently compelling and very moving. I also consider myself lucky in the sense that I didn't see the trailer or read any reviews beforehand, and I would encourage people to go into this one knowing as little as possible. (I myself will put a spoiler warning once I start talking about the movie's second half.)

The movie opens intriguingly enough, establishing the day-to-day details of life in a very small space -- the one-room garden shed that Brie Larson and her son live in -- and gradually doling out the information about who the characters are and how they got there. And then the moment comes when Larson sits her son down and fills in ALL of the details, at which point it seemed the movie was going to become some version of The Collector, with the entrapped characters struggling to find ways to escape, while bonding in complicated ways with the captor who has enslaved them yet whom they rely upon to survive.

********SPOILERS FOLLOW********

What surprised me, though, was just how quickly Larson and Tremblay escaped from room -- and how the movie shifted gears entirely in the second half to become a film about how people who have been removed from the world for years struggle to orient themselves back into it. Many films about stranded/lost individuals focus entirely on the journey back to normality; I thought a movie like Cast Away suffered a bit because of this, as it short-changed an element of its story I really wanted to see: what happened to Hanks AFTER he was reintroduced in a world that had moved on without him. And this was the portion of Room where I felt the movie really soared. When Joan Allen tells Larson that her life wasn't the only one destroyed by this situation, and Larson has zero sympathy for that, it's a great moment where both characters on opposite ends of a fight are 100% right. There's no way that anyone who had endured seven years of what Larson did could view her family members as any kind of victim by comparison, and yet, the movie makes clear that her disappearance had monumental effects on their lives nonetheless, and Allen is right that that isn't insignificant. (I like the way the movie doesn't explicate that Larson's disappearance lead to her parents' divorce, but it's hard not to assume that's what's happened.)

I think the movie reaches its peak in two scenes. The first is the interview between Larson and the reporter, who asks a number of questions that seem perfectly appropriate for any journalist looking for an interesting angle on this story, and yet completely shatter Larson's character, who rightly cannot believe she's being accused of doing anything OTHER than putting her son's best interests first. Larson is terrific in this scene, in the zenith of a performance that's full of deep wells of emotion and complex attitudes towards her character's situation -- I rate her a very likely candidate for Best Actress citations.

The second scene the movie lands just beautifully is its closing one, in which Larson honors her son's request to see room one last time. What follows is a delicately handled, heartfelt portrait of a child suddenly realizing that the world for which he holds such nostalgia -- for time spent with his mother in a world whose horrors were shielded from him -- was actually something far bleaker. Most of us thankfully have never had to experience what this kid went through, but isn't this sentiment pretty universal nonetheless? This kid had to grow up a lot faster than most of us, but who hasn't revisited a favorite memory of childhood only to find it a lot less idyllic as an adult? I think the way the movie uses its horrifying premise to get at a lot of truths about families and growing up is its great strength.

********END SPOILERS********

As I said, it's a little movie, but a beautifully acted one, and full of emotional resonance. I'd love to see it become that tiny-movie-that-could in this year's awards race.
Last edited by The Original BJ on Wed Oct 28, 2015 2:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Room reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 05, 2015 1:20 pm

This one wasn't on my radar, and the reviews don't seem quite strong enough to push it to prominence, but you never know: Nightcrawler did OK from a similar platform last year.

Hollywood Reporter
by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line
Strong emotions in cramped quarters.

Irish director Lenny Abrahamson clearly has a penchant for confining his actors to tight spaces — Michael Fassbender within a large fake head in Frank, and now Brie Larson and her little son to a 10x10 shed in Room. The result is rather better this time around, as this adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s celebrated 2010 novel, with a script by the author herself, is involving and moderately heartwarming here and there, even if doesn’t reach the higher levels of psychological insight and emotional profundity to which it aspires. Strong performances by Larson and young Jacob Tremblay as a mother and son held captive for years, as well as the book’s reputation, will provide a certain art house draw, more among female viewers than with men. But the claustrophobic and upsetting nature of the material will be a disincentive to many.

Donoghue’s book was able to make much more of the notion that, for five-year-old Jack (Tremblay), there is no world other than his mother, the objects in the messy, one-room hut to which they’re confined and what he knows from children’s books and television. Twenty-something mom Joy (Larson) maintains a certain discipline against extraordinary odds, limiting TV time, doing a bit of exercise and so on, but the circumstances are dire, and little Jack, who looks like a girl with his long brown hair hanging down below his shoulder blades, must nightly endure the sounds of Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) creeping into the shed and making weird muted noises in bed with his mother.

As the extent of their shared creativity can’t be nearly as fully expressed in the film as it is on the page, the effectiveness of the film’s first 50 minutes rest on Abrahamson’s ability to keep things interesting visually within cramped quarters, which he does reasonably well while working in widescreen, and on the intensity of the complicity between the two characters, which is strong and credible.

Entirely deglamorized and festooned with pimples and straggly hair, Larson’s Joy seems remarkably sane and emotionally steady under the heavily depressing circumstances, a tribute to her single-minded maternal devotion, even if she sees no hope of their situation changing. She is, in fact, an incredible mom, teaching her sponge-like son a good deal even if he doesn’t believe there’s an actual greater world out there; “I can’t see the outside side,” as he eloquently puts it.

Clearly the victim of kidnapping and ongoing rape, Joy has had no luck at escape in the past; she and Jack are locked in by a door code, and the only window is a skylight too high to reach. But finally, trying a bizarre scheme, there is success, which allows for a momentary deep breath.

The emotional dynamics of the second half change significantly but are at times equally depressing, especially because some of the new adult characters introduced are so unnecessarily selfish and uncomprehending, but also because of the banality of the milieu that now surrounds Jack. After a hospital recovery period, mother and son move into the home of Joy’s mother (Joan Allen), although it’s news to Joy that her mom and dad (William H. Macy) have divorced and mom is now living with a new guy, Leo (Tom McCamus).

Timid and uncommunicative at first, Jack eventually displays the resilient coping and adaptability skills of children, which are far greater than those of grown-ups; at a certain point, Joy simply collapses. The latter is not helped by the behavior of her elders, which initially swings between uncomfortable stiffness and ridiculous arguing, and is later exacerbated by a misguided decision to earn some much-needed money by giving an exclusive television interview.

Some tender and insightful moments eventually ensue, particularly from some nice work by Allen (sorely missed in good roles on the big screen of late) and McCamus; especially nice is a scene in which Grandma cuts the boy’s cascading hair. On the other hand, the reaction of Macy’s character to the course of events is all but inscrutable, leaving a sour taste.

The eventual emotional transformations are low-key rather than cathartic, and the film overall provides more in the line of minor insights than it puts the viewer through the wringer on anything resembling the level of what the characters endure. Overall, it’s a decent shot at a tall target, but real credit is due the lead actors, with Larson expanding beyond the already considerable range she’s previously shown with an exceedingly dimensional performance in a role that calls for running the gamut, and Tremblay always convincing without ever becoming cloying.


Variety
Justin Chang
Chief Film Critic @JustinCChang

The cramped 11-by-11-foot interior of a sealed, sound-proof garden shed isn’t the only thing keeping a boy and his mother prisoner in “Room,” a suspenseful and heartrending drama that finds perhaps the most extreme possible metaphor for how time, regret and the end of childhood can make unknowing captives of us all. It’s a testament to the story’s underlying integrity that, even when deprived of some of the elements that made Emma Donoghue’s 2010 book so gripping, director Lenny Abrahamson’s inevitably telescoped but beautifully handled adaptation retains considerable emotional impact as it morphs from a taut survival thriller into a hauntingly conflicted drama of loss, mourning and gradual reawakening. With enough critical favor (especially for Brie Larson’s superb lead performance), plus a savvy marketing campaign that emphasizes the story’s killer hook, A24 might just have the call-your-mom-sobbing-afterward movie of 2015 on its hands.

It was wise to hand the task of adapting Donoghue’s Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel to the author herself, who surely knew better than anyone just how tricky it would be to retell her story without her most essential tools: chiefly, a mastery of language and interior monologue that kept us firmly locked inside the head of the story’s 5-year-old protagonist. For a reader diving into “Room” with no prior knowledge of its premise, it may well take more than a few pages to grasp the precise nature of what’s going on, so artfully does Donoghue mimic the voice of a small boy who has never been allowed to set foot in the outside world — and who indeed has no understanding of what “outside” and “world” even mean.

The film, by contrast, has no recourse but to give us an immediate view of this enclosed space, though Abrahamson and his gifted cinematographer Danny Cohen do a fine job of keeping as much concealed as possible. Lensed in dingy, muted colors and tight, widescreen closeups that deliberately frustrate our sense of space, the film places us in extremely close quarters with Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and Ma (Larson), the only other person he’s ever seen or spoken to. They spend every waking minute together in the room — or Room, as they call it, Jack having no awareness that there might be others like it. In these spare, grubby environs (expertly arranged by production designer Ethan Tobman), every object, like Table and Toilet and Sink, is not just a functional item but a friend. But no one is a better friend to him, of course, than Ma, and we watch with growing tenderness and trepidation as she attends to Jack’s every need: running him through a morning exercise routine, playing games with him, reading books to him, giving him a bath, fixing him a simple meal, and even baking him a cake to celebrate his fifth birthday.

That milestone aside, it quickly becomes clear that this day is much like every other that Jack has ever experienced — right down to the unhappy ritual of locking himself away in the wardrobe at night, when a barely glimpsed man known only as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) opens the security-code-enabled door (or Door, rather), has an inexplicable yet noisy interaction with Ma, replenishes their food and supplies, and then leaves. By this point, adult viewers will know exactly what’s going on, and not a moment too soon, as Ma decides it’s finally time to tell Jack the truth: Seven years ago, she was kidnapped by Old Nick (“He stole me,” she explains) and imprisoned in Room. Two years later, Jack came along, and we immediately understand that this boy, despite the grim circumstances of his conception, gave his mother a reason to live.

Those who have read the book will be struck immediately by some of the compromises that Donoghue and Abrahamson have had to make here. In the book, the extended daily monotony of life in Room, imagined down to the smallest detail, is utterly crucial to the story’s sense of duration and claustrophobia; the onscreen version can’t help but feel rushed by comparison. And while the camera sticks as close to Jack as possible — even giving him self-narrated quasi-dream sequences in which he enthusiastically explains his extremely limited yet strangely captivating understanding of the world — there’s no getting around the fact that the story’s perspective has shifted to that of a third-party observer. In ways that were perhaps unavoidable from a dramatic standpoint, the film doesn’t fully convey the crucial sense of prolonged immersion in a psychological space, as well as a physical one.

Still, Abrahamson’s restrained, intelligent approach gives us the foothold we need, and the questions and potential plotholes that Donoghue was able to work out at length on the page — why couldn’t Ma dig her way out, why didn’t she try to kill Old Nick, etc. — are addressed as satisfactorily as possible in the necessarily compacted time frame. Those unfamiliar with the plot are here duly warned to stop reading until after they’ve seen the film, which only tightens its narrative grip when Ma devises an escape plan. And although the specific details of what happens next would have achieved even greater plausibility onscreen with a bit more time and concentration, there’s no denying the tale’s headlong momentum as Ma and Jack are fatefully separated — and then reunited, in a moment that loses none of the book’s emotional wallop.

In another kidnapping/survival yarn, that would be the end of the story, and a perfectly happy one at that. It’s here, however, that “Room” becomes altogether richer and more complicated as it delves into the lingering shellshock that afflicts Ma and especially young Jack, who is understandably overwhelmed by his immediate impressions of the outside world. Abrahamson, an Irish independent filmmaker whose very previous movies (“Frank,” “Garage”) struck a nice balance of humanist storytelling and austerely elegant visuals, pulls off some of his most striking effects here through compositional skill alone (which at times makes Stephen Rennicks’ score feel over-insistent by comparison). Cohen’s use of widescreen, an odd but strangely effective choice in terms of capturing Room’s interior, makes the outside world look big, empty and weirdly underpopulated by comparison. Jack’s first exposure to a white-walled hospital room is painfully overlit, like something out of science fiction; an establishing shot of an American suburban neighborhood conveys an inexplicable sense of menace.

At every step of the film’s second-half progress — which maintains keen focus and a slow-building emotional and psychological tension — Abrahamson and Donoghue invite and achieve an uncommon level of audience identification as they give due weight to their characters’ post-traumatic stress disorder. Their story implores us to consider the normal or expected passages to adulthood — the gradual separation from one’s parents, the growing sense of self-sufficiency, the ability to put away childish things, the understanding that what we are losing is (hopefully) being matched by what we are gaining — and to realize the impossible situation that now confronts Jack. Yet a subtle, provocative question also rises to the surface, slyly articulated in a scene where his mother wistfully scans the photos of her former classmates in a high-school yearbook: With their comparably blessed, sheltered, mundane lives, were they really that much better off?

As much as it may have lost in the translation from page to screen, “Room” has unmistakably gained something where its performances are concerned. Joan Allen is unsurprisingly excellent in the role of Jack’s deeply relieved yet emotionally shattered grandmother, while William H. Macy makes the most of his scenes as a grandfather who can’t quite bring himself to accept his daughter’s homecoming. Tremblay, a major find, doesn’t strike a false note as a soulful, spirited child who has been so thoroughly deprived of life’s traditional necessities and pleasures that he doesn’t even want them when they finally arrive. Given the script’s built-in limitations, the actor does a remarkable job of capturing the boy’s ever-shifting thought processes, the way frustration and bewilderment can suddenly gate way to an unexpected epiphany.

But it’s Jack’s relationship with his Ma that gives both incarnations of “Room” their force of feeling, and on these terms the movie is entirely successful. Larson drew well-deserved praise for her breakout performance as a counselor for troubled teens in “Short Term 12,” and the demands of that role, with its balance of tenderness and tough love, were in some ways an ideal warm-up for the startling display of mama-lion intensity she unleashes here. Her inner radiance undimmed by seven years’ worth of accumulated grime, exhaustion and defeat, Larson sometimes beams at her child with incongruous delight, and at other times gives full voice to the anger and impatience that a mother can feel toward her offspring even when they haven’t been forced to breathe the same foul air for five years. Even at its most forceful and despairing, her rage never feels like an expression of anything less than a mother’s love.


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