The film adaptation of the 2010 award-winning novel Room is confirmed for screening at the Toronto Film Festival in September, ahead of a nationwide release. Scheduling the movie for what is traditionally held to be the window for awards contenders suggests a high degree of confidence in the film, which stars Brie Larson as a young mother raising and protecting her son in the most extreme of circumstances.
Ostensibly about the extraordinary bond between mother and child, Room is told from the perspective of five year old Jack, who lives in a tiny, windowless space with Ma. The windowless space is the sum total of Jack’s experience. He has no perception of the outside world, and Ma spends every waking moment trying to give him a fulfilling and interesting life with limited resources. She provides scheduled activities, as much education as she can, and a strict hygiene regime to ensure their continued health. We learn that this circumstance is the result of Ma having been kidnapped by a man, referred to only as Old Nick, when she was 19 years old – and she has been held captive in Room for seven years. Jack is the result of rape.
Ma never shares any of this reality with the child, until she becomes aware of Old Nick’s sudden unemployment and resulting financial difficulty. With her child and herself completely dependent upon Old Nick for supplies – as well as understanding that he would rather kill them than release them – Ma decides that she needs to take urgent action to ensure the survival of her son. She plans a dangerous escape plan that rests entirely on Jack’s shoulders, and she sets about preparing her child for the fact that there is actually a whole world outside Room.
The screenplay for Room is adapted from the source material by the author herself – Emma Donoghue – which bodes well for such a specific tale. With its unusual perspective and delicate relationships, Room requires a deft touch, and Donoghue’s strength lies in her creation of absorbing and compelling characters. Placing her material in the hands of director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), and cast members Brie Larson (Trainwreck), Jacob Tremblay (The Smurfs 2), William H. Macy (Shameless), Joan Allen (The Bourne franchise) and Sean Bridgers (Rectify), only serves to build anticipation for what could be an extraordinary project.
The real test of Room as a film will be whether the core tone of the piece is successfully translated onto the big screen. The novel itself is quietly devastating, and Donoghue achieves this by depicting the absolute horror experienced by Ma, through the filter of Jack’s complete innocence. This builds gradually throughout the story toward an ending that is at once gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. If these elements work in the adaptation as well as they do in the book, this could well be one of the most remarkable films of the year.
Room will open in a limited release on October 16th, expanding nationwide on November 6th, 2015.