Brie Larson is set to continue her move into leading roles by starring in Room – the film adaptation of the 2010 bestselling novel of the same name. The past 24 months have seen Larson transition from strong supporting turns in excellent movies – such as 21 Jump Street, The Spectacular Now and Don Jon – to leading roles in Short Term 12 and the upcoming Basmati Blues. Room will present a new challenge for the young actress, and an opportunity to flex some truly heavy dramatic muscle.
The novel was written by Emma Donoghue – seemingly inspired by the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, whose lengthy imprisonment in her father’s basement had ended just two years earlier. Told entirely from the perspective of a five year old boy, the story gradually unfolds to reveal the fact that the boy and his mother are living in a small room, which they never leave. Making clear that, to him, the world is only 12 feet long and 8 feet wide, it transpires that the boy – Jack – and his mother – Ma – are being held captive by a mysterious man known only as Old Nick – who visits Room most nights via a door secured with a combination lock. Eventually, Ma comes up with an escape plan which requires the five year old to confront the fact that there is a world beyond the walls of Room, and fake his own death. Suddenly, the foundations of the Jack’s world begin to shift as he struggles to comprehend the reality of the situation, while desperately trying to save his mother.
Though the horrific and dramatic storyline is difficult material, the novel has been adapted by the author herself, in her first feature length screenplay. In any other writer’s hands, this project would be likely to fall flat, however, Donoghue’s immersion in the world of Jack – the depth of her understanding of his, at first, limited world view – suggests that this film could be something quite extraordinary. It has a very specific tone that is hard to capture – presenting terrifying events as they are being psychologically processed by an innocent child who knows nothing beyond Room. The project will require deft and subtle direction, which will be provided by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank).
In Ma, Brie Larson has a character that anchors the entire story. She fills Jack’s early world with consistency and love, before effectively – and necessarily – ripping the rug out from under him and thrusting him into a different life. As Jack concentrates on getting to grips with his own experience through the eyes of a child, Ma’s internal conflicts and emotional suffering provide an expansive and shattering backdrop as the action plays out. Handled the right way, this has the potential to be one of the most devastating female performances in recent years.
Room is being produced by Ed Guiney (The Guard) and, with the central role of Ma now cast, we will surely hear soon of the choices for the other roles – most notably Jack, Old Nick and Grandma. As financing falls into place through Element, this remarkable story will hopefully find its way to the big screen soon.