It is always a formidable task to bring a beloved book to the screen, and do it well. Emma Donoghue’s novel ROOM garnered enough glowing reviews, accolades, and awards to fill not only a room, but a gymnasium. Fortunately for fans of the book, she is the one who translated the novel for the screen, and the beautiful soul of the story remains intact. In order to really make the film as moving and inspiring, they needed two exceptional actors for Ma and Jack. They were essential to portraying the story of Joy Newsome, a woman locked in the garden shed at the mercy of her captor for seven years, and her son born in captivity, with a raw truth that would compel viewers as much as it did readers of the original novel.
Enter one of the most authentic, committed young actresses hotly in-demand in Hollywood, Brie Larson. She brings so much to her portrayal of Ma, after seeing the film, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Larson captures a truth of the sort of survivor struggling to maintain optimism that makes her existing in that situation seem realistic. Her Ma is so exceptional and inspiring, she becomes, over the course of the film, a superhero there to overcome moments of desperation and hopelessness. She is walking schadenfreude.
For all the acting prowess on display with Larson, the film would not work without newcomer Jacob Tremblay as Jack. He is really the star of the film in that it is his experience of confusion and discovery drive the narrative. Both the most poignant and the most joyful moments of the film are seen from his perspective. Tremblay is a revelation. Between him and Abraham Attah of BEASTS OF NO NATION, the Academy needs to consider reinstating the award for “Outstanding Juvenile Performance” they gave for the first time to 6 year old Shirley Temple in 1935.
If a story about a woman and her child living captive, finding ways not to go crazy, and finding ways to re-emerge into life after escaping sounds dark and sad, it isn’t. It’s surprisingly life-affirming. The film sticks with you like the best, most intense stories often relegated to the “i’ll never watch that again” pile, but ROOM ultimately celebrates life. It’s no wonder it won the People’s Choice Award at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
There is going be a lot of talk about Brie Larson as we get closer to Oscar time. We’ll see if this spectacular performance gets traction. She certainly has plenty of movies left in her, but if she keeps getting better, few American actresses will be her equal in nuance and authenticity. See her now, so you can say you knew of this tremendous talent and were her champion when the movie ROOM was placing her at the top of the Hollywood A list.
I spoke to Brie Larson when I took part in a press roundtable a few weeks ago, and asked a few questions about Room and her role in it.
Brie talked about what she went through in preparation for the role of Ma, and how memories of childhood played a part in understanding her from the inside:
Brie had a great answer when I asked her what surprised her the most about her character, Ma: