Directed By: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, and William H. Macy

Brie Larson has been one to watch over the last several years.  From bit roles in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and 21 Jump Street to meatier supporting roles in The Spectacular Now and Don Jon, Larson has stolen scenes in film after film.  Her breakout lead role was equally impressive in the outstanding indie drama Short Term 12.  Since then, she's had supporting roles in The Gambler and Trainwreck.  Up until this fall, she hadn't tackled any follow-up leading roles.  This weekend, however, I'm happy to report that her second lead role is in the powerhouse survival drama Room.

As a teenager, Joy Newsome (Larson) meets a man (Sean Bridgers) who claims that his dog is sick.  Being the Good Samaritan and attempting to help the gentleman is no reward in itself as Joy is kidnapped by the man and locked in his garden shed.  Fast forward seven years, and Joy is still trapped in this hell of a garden shed, subject to the whims and sexual proclivities of the man to whom she refers as Old Nick.  Unsurprisingly, she is the mother of his child, a five year-old boy named Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who remains confined in the garden shed with Joy.

Seven years in a single room is hell on earth, but being born inside the room and never seeing anything outside it is an entirely different story.  To help Jacob deal with this, Joy tells her boy that the garden shed known only as Room is the world in its entirety.  She makes the environment as fun and non-threatening as possible.  All the while, she endures the torment through which Old Nick puts her and puts together plans to escape.  No escape scenario can exclude getting Jack's help, however.  To get her unaware son on board, she tells him of the world outside Room and of the Grandma (Joan Allen) and Grandpa (William H. Macy) he's never met.

Full of emotion and marked by extraordinarily complex social situations, Room is an incredible survival drama that will undoubtedly put the Ariel Castro kidnappings at the forefront of many moviegoers' minds.  Dominated by two incredible performances from Brie Larson and her younger pint-sized co-star Jacob Tremblay, this potent drama delivers on so many levels.  It's simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting to watch this situation unfold as a young mother tries to shield her son from the horrors of the confined, ultra-insular world in which they live.  All in all, this harrowing tale is a triumphant motion picture that is consistently engaging, relentlessly gripping, and always challenging.

As much as Room is a magnificent cinematic experience, the movie itself is all about experiences, or the lack thereof.  It's about being stuck in a single room for the better part of seven years and finding a coping mechanism.  It's about reentering the world and finding a place as lives of loved ones have moved forward.  It's about confronting the reality that new loved ones can come from the most horrible of circumstances.  As we explore these experiences and so many more throughout Room, director Lenny Abrahamson leverages numerous cinematic devices to elevate the narrative and augment our viewing experience.  These devices include a melancholic score to fuel the emotions bursting from the screen, blurred hazy visuals to show just how foreign the outside world is to those who may have never been in it, and well-crafted suspense that serves as a central underpinning of the film's powerful story.  Abrahamson's solid filmmaking is crucial to pulling off a film of this nature.

For the vast majority of Room, we have two actors conducting the train, namely Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.  For her part as Ma / Joy Newsome, Brie Larson may have just won herself an Oscar.  Her character is both a figure of fortitude and persecution.  As Abrahamson begins to explore Joy, Larson offers a multi-dimensional character that grows and transforms during and after her crisis.  Bringing each and every psychological scar to life while also being a mother, her performance plays the full scale of emotions over the course of a two-hour tour de force.  As Larson's on-screen son Jack, Jacob Tremblay manages to do what few child actors can do.  Conveying an innocence in the midst of the most horrible circumstances but also demonstrating how crucial exposure to the world is at a young age, Tremblay gives a nuanced performance that endears moviegoers in every way.

is easily one of the best films of the year, and one I consider a must-see.  As awards season rolls onward, the impressive work done in this film by Abrahamson, Larson, and Tremblay should definitely be in the conversation.  It would be a travesty for it not to be.  Room gets a sober rating.  I use these words entirely too often for movies with sober ratings.  By all means, however, don't miss this one.