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Room: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Room (2015) movie poster Room

Theatrical Release: October 16, 2015 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Lenny Abrahamson / Writer: Emma Donoghue (novel and screenplay)

Cast: Brie Larson (Joy Newsome), Jacob Tremblay (Jack Newsome), Joan Allen (Grandma Nancy), Sean Bridgers (Old Nick), Tom McCamus (Leo), William H. Macy (Grandpa Robert), Cas Anvar (Dr. Mittal), Amanda Brugel (Officer Parker), Wendy Crewson (Talk Show Hostess)

Buy Room from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD + Digital Instant Video

A number of much-anticipated films had buzz-generating premieres at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, including Ridley Scott's The Martian, Tom McCarthy's Spotlight, Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl, Paolo Sorrentino's Youth, Jay Roach's Trumbo, Cary Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation, and Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa.
And yet, the major prize at the annual September event, considered in recent years a starting line for the Academy Awards race, did not go to any of these big name movies, but to Room, a low-budget drama from Irish director Lenny Abrahamson and, making her film debut with an adaptation of her 2010 novel, Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue.

Not to be confused with Tommy Wiseau's so terrible it's amazing 2003 disaster The Room, this film opens with Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) celebrating the fifth birthday of her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). The two are living very simply in the squalor of a tiny 11' x 11' room. Ma makes Jack a small cake using what few ingredients there are in this stifling small space. We come to understand why this mother and son are calling these cramped, dingy quarters their home. At 17, Joy agreed to help a stranger who claimed he had a sick dog. It was a trap and in the seven years since then, this young woman has been living locked in this unknown garden shed. Her captor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), pops in nightly for sex while Jack sleeps, or doesn't, inside a wardrobe. Nick brings a few essential items for his captive and the rarely-seen child he had with her. He expects gratitude for his grocery store runs, as if he wasn't keeping these two humans against their will in a code-protected, soundproof shed.

Mother hatches an escape plan that hinges largely on her son's ability to play sick and then dead. While this seems like a spoiler, it occurs early enough to necessitate being revealed. The movie does venture outside that titular domain, following Jack in a breathtaking, pulse-pounding sequence that feels too good to be true. It is not a dream, though, instead bringing the movie and this family's life into a new phase.

In "Room", a mother (Brie Larson) and her young son (Jacob Tremblay) are held captive in an 11' x 11' room for years.

Room is as interested in what comes next for Joy and Jack as it was in this horrific predicament they found themselves in for several years. It becomes a different movie after it escapes those confines, but not a lesser one. Though it loosens the grip of that riveting first half, it remains thoughtful and interesting.

Much of the film's power is the direct result of the two actors who carry it: Larson, who received raves and a Best Actress nomination from my Online Film Critics Society for her turn in 2013's Short Term 12, and young relative newcomer Tremblay, who spends most of the film with a lush ponytail. Larson, who broke into film in 2004 after five years as a tweenaged TV actor, surely has her choice of bigger studio movies. Her past credits include 21 Jump Street and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. While she isn't turning all of those down (she appears in Trainwreck, for instance and is now shooting the 2017 big budget prequel Kong: Skull Island), she does seem to be drawn to roles and films of substance. Joy and Room certainly fit the bill.

Larson bares her soul to convey the torment of this character. She wears make-up in just a single scene and it stands out. Most of the time, she looks beaten down by the world and on the verge of a breakdown. Keeping her going is her son, who Tremblay ensures is an appealingly real child and not just some stage mom's kid being precocious. Having spent his first five years in that cell with a skylight, Jack struggles to understand the difference between reality and what he sees on television. It's a terrifying foundation for a young life and the effects of that situation linger even when he has medical care, a warm bed, and new toys.

Life outside the room isn't all sunshine and rainbows for Joy Newsome (Brie Larson).

Among recent films, Room reminds me most of David Fincher's masterful mystery Gone Girl. While that was driven more by a twisty plot and a strained romance, this is more invested in these two tortured characters who have been each other's only ally for years in captivity. You can question the tidiness and believability of the actions that cause the movie to shift gears. You can also raise questions about the film's embodiment of evil and how he can do what he does so long without detection. Of course, similar atrocities have occurred in real life, so consider that before starting your kneejerk contrarian thread on IMDb's message boards for the film.

Any concerns regarding the film, from the inexplicably creepy vibes emitted by Joy's stepfather (Tom McCamus) to the seeming ease with which this years-long problem is resolved, are minor when weighed against the film's powerful, thought-provoking core.
A lesser movie would have ended with an escape, but Room finds intriguing, believable misery awaiting mother and son on the other side. Life wouldn't just conveniently return to sunshine and rainbows with hugs from family members unseen in years. Some may argue that Room belabors this point or that it struggles to transition from one setting to the other. You can nitpick anything, but the fact remains that Donoghue, Abrahamson, Larson, and Tremblay have made something resonant and meaningful in a way that few films are.

The public's vote in Toronto has been echoed by critics, who lavished the film with high praise ever since. The acclaim did not drive moviegoers to discover the film in droves, but the film was well-timed enough to still land four Academy Award nominations, for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Actress. Larson won the lattermost, a significant honor rarely bestowed upon such a small film from such a relatively young studio as A24. Two days after accepting that award, Room came to Blu-ray and DVD with digital copies from A24 home video partner Lionsgate.

Room: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($19.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Room may not have picked up many technical accolades, but the film's look certainly factors into its effectiveness. The Blu-ray's flawless 2.40:1 transfer shows off that thoughtful production design and conveys the unease. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix also delivers the goods, with dialogue remaining crisp, volume levels consistent and fitting, and understated score staying tasteful and present.

Child actor Jacob Tremblay gives us insight in "Making 'Room.'" "11 x 11" takes in the details of production design that went into the cramped titular setting of "Room."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Bonus features begin with an audio commentary by director Lenny Abrahamson, cinematographer Danny Cohen, editor Nathan Nugent, and production designer Ethan Tobman.

The talk is understandably a little more technical than most other commentaries, but it turns your attention to topics taken for granted and stands out with that approach. The commentary does make mention of deleted and truncated scenes that are nowhere to be found here.

On the video side, where all is encoded in HD of course, we start with "Making Room" (12:03), a general featurette that considers the adaptation, casting, and performances.

"11 x 11" (9:06) details the production design that went into the titular setting, from researching real captives' quarters to aging and wearing the place to finding lighting and layout to give it visual variety and presence. It's a solid piece.

"Recreating Room" (4:23) shows us the same 11' x 11' set being installed in Los Angeles' Landmark Theatre last fall with more comments from production designer Ethan Tobman and some dramatic slow motion footage.

Finally, "Trailers" does not hold Room marketing, instead simply replying the disc-opening trailers for Mississippi Grind, The End of the Tour, Remember, Amy, and The Spectacular Now.

The menu animates the cloud walls backdrop of the poster and cover art behind our leads, eventually and creatively turning it into just plain sky. The disc supports bookmarks and also resumes unfinished playback.

A Digital HD insert sits across from the plain gray disc inside the slipcovered standard eco-friendly keepcase.

Joy (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) return to room at the end of "Room."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Some Best Actress Oscar winners are notable only for a standout lead performance. Not Room. This potent drama is genuinely one of 2015's best films and arrests far beyond Brie Larson's committed turn. Lionsgate's Blu-ray complements a fine feature presentation with some extras of value. This is one release that's easy to recommend.

Buy Room from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital / Instant Video

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Reviewed March 6, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 A24 Films, Telefilm Canada and 2016 Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
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