Room, film review: ‘Subtly draws you in’

PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 January 2016

Room. Picture: George Kraychyk

Room. Picture: George Kraychyk


Michael Joyce falls for the measured approach of this low key portrait of suburban mid west horror.

Director: Lenny Abrahamson 
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Tom McCamus, Sean Bridgers and William H. Macy 
Film Length: 118 mins

The horror film is just about the only type of film in risk-averse Hollywood where it is still acceptable to not have a happy ending, though even these are getting rarer. A horror film happy ending usually involves the abused heroine, blood splattered and dirt smeared, chest heaving in tight top, standing over the dead (ah, but not really) body of her assailant. Room is a film about what happens after the horror film happy ending, how to cope with life after experiencing the worst it can throw at you.

Room is based on the Emma Donoghue novel, which was inspired by the Josef Fritzl case. It imagines a woman (Larson) abducted when she was 17 and forced to live in a fortified garden shed by Old Nick (Bridgers). She shares the space with her five-year-old son (Tremblay) who knows nothing about the outside world other than what he sees on TV.

Room is a drably banal kind of hell and their captor Old Nick is a dull streak of bearded nothingness. Absolutely the best thing about Room is its total disinterest in its villain. He is shown when necessary and then discarded when not needed. The film is all about the victims. Midway through, they escape and the second half, where they struggle to adapt back into happiness, is what makes the film special.

Abrahamson (Frank, What Lenny Did) is not a man for the big gesture and his measured approach really pulls you into the situation. With its low key portrait of suburban mid west horror, it is the film The Lovely Bones should’ve been.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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