Room

The gentle bril­liance of both this film and Emma Donoghue’s source nov­el is that it uses a cap­tive situ­ation—fer­tile ground for a thrill­er to eval­u­ate gradu­ally, some­times dev­ast­at­ingly, the count­less nu­ances of moth­er­hood.

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There’s a mo­ment in “Room,” the ex­traordin­ary new drama from dir­ect­or Lenny Ab­ra­ham­son (“Frank”), when Joy New­s­ome (Brie Lar­son) doubts everything she’s ever done in re­gard to her young son Jack (Jac­ob Tremblay), with whom she was locked in a small shed for sev­en years. Hav­ing es­caped to safety, Joy is be­ing drilled on cam­era by a Di­ane Saw­yer-type, whose toughest ques­tion is why Joy didn’t try to re­lease 5-year-old Jack—who was born in the shed—much soon­er. “Did you ever think that might have been bet­ter for him?” the in­ter­view­er asks. Joy is dumb­foun­ded, her self-per­cep­tion as a mom upen­ded in an in­stant.

The gentle bril­liance of both this film and Emma Donoghue’s source nov­el is that it uses a cap­tive situ­ation—fer­tile ground for a thrill­er to eval­u­ate gradu­ally, some­times dev­ast­at­ingly, the count­less nu­ances of moth­er­hood. When Joy was kid­napped and locked in the shed by the man who would even­tu­ally im­preg­nate her (and who main­tains the shed’s plumb­ing, elec­tri­city, and food sup­ply), it seems she was barely out of high school, her forth­com­ing mom du­ties drawn from in­stinct and whatever she gathered from moth­ers like hers (Joan Al­len).

But when we meet Joy, and through roughly the first half of the film, she seems like a sure­fire—if short-tempered—ace, with her and Jack’s daily routine down to a sci­ence, and her radar for what might con­tam­in­ate their space on high alert. And yet, that all of that de­notes strong par­ent­ing might have just been this crit­ic’s take.

In fact, how one re­acts to the in­ter­view­er’s ques­tion might re­veal things not about Joy, but about him­self or her­self. Does the sug­ges­tion come as a shock, as surely no moth­er would send off her cub? Or had the thought oc­curred to you, too—that Joy mak­ing a massive sac­ri­fice and fa­cing loneli­ness would have been the true meas­ure of ma­ter­nal good­ness? Since “Room” be­gins by ex­pos­ing us only to Joy and Jack, and so­lid­i­fy­ing their bond (both Lar­son and Tremblay are mag­ni­fi­cent), these ques­tions be­come that much more layered. But that com­plex­ity, con­veyed with fault­less grace and zero schmaltz, is pre­cisely what locks you in.

“Room”

R

4 reels out of 4

Now play­ing at The Ritz Five


Re­com­men­ded rent­al

“Mr. Holmes”

PG

Now avail­able

Ian McK­el­len gives the per­form­ance of his ca­reer in “Mr. Holmes,” a beau­ti­ful mys­tery that tells a fic­tion­al story, yet plays it ut­terly straight. Re­united with his “Gods and Mon­sters” dir­ect­or Bill Con­don, McK­el­len is in­deed Sher­lock, but now aging and strug­gling with the demons of his past. The film thrives on the sense of memory be­ing es­sen­tial for a sleuth, and McK­el­len’s own age surely adds poignancy to his work. ■


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