WHAT I LIKED: Lenny Abrahamson and Emma Donoghue's 'Room,' is a film of two halves; one an unbelievably tense tale of a kidnapped woman ("Ma") and her captive-born daughter, and the other a meditative character study about the pair reintegrating into society once they've escaped the confines of their titular cell.
The first half is only so harrowing and visceral because the monotony and claustrophobia of their everyday rhythms - cooking, washing, cleaning and playing - feels so cloying that when it's interpreted - by their captor, any discussion of the outside, or something as simple as burnt toast - it's a real shock to the system. That atmospheric rhythm is created in part thanks to Ethan Tobman and Mary Kirkland's intricate production design, but also Jacob Tremblay and, particularly, Brie Larson's perfect performance, which balances boredom with terror and desparation with willpower with unbelievable nuance.
That all makes the first half a genuinely difficult thing to watch, but once they've they make their nail-biting journey to freedom, the film only breathes a sigh of relief for a moment as the pair must then reintegrate into normality and their family. Ma wants to rush in head first, initially frustrated by her daughter's tentativeness when faced with the seemingly limitless opportunities of even her mother's home. But in a heartbreakingly unspoken decline, we eventually watch Ma struggle with the question of "what now?" as she faces the prospect of life beyond the rhythms of the room.
As a result, you'll leave the screen with a mix of relief and immense sadness; the kind of affect that could only be achieved a film that so perfectly builds atmosphere and empathy for its characters.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: For what it does, it's a hard film to fault.
VERDICT: Nail-biting and atmoshperic, then deeply sensitive and empathetic, 'Room,' has the kind of long-lasting emotional effect that only the greatest films do.