There's a moment midway into Room that overpowers your heartstrings with incredible force. It'd be a huge spoiler to break down the scene’s details, but what can be said here is that it involves 9-year-old actor Jacob Tremblay conveying a whirlwind of emotions without saying a word, and that it's both cathartic and terrifying. He simply looks up at the sky. Once the sequence mercifully concludes, and Tremblay's character, the 5-year-old Jack, has emerged from the ultra-tense situation unscathed, it's a Herculean task to not sob uncontrollably while wanting to applaud.
That duality of feelings permeates the entirety of Frank director Lenny Abrahamson's adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s beloved 2010 novel. It's a 110-minute endurance test for the tear ducts. The perennially underrated Brie Larson gives one of the year’s strongest performances as Joy, or "Ma," as her son Jack calls her; having been kidnapped by a sexual deviant, only referred to as "Old Nick," at age 19, Joy has been confined inside her captor’s backyard shed for seven years, five of which she's spent raising the child born out of the sex Old Nick has forced onto her.
Room shifts from a claustrophobic thriller into a post-traumatic stress drama once Joy and Jack manage to break free from the 11-by-11-foot prison's walls, and it's in the film’s second half where Larson kicks into overdrive. As Joy tries to adjust to normal life, her depression and guilt dominate, and Larson makes you feel every bit of hurt and anguish. She proves that 2013's underrated Short Term 12 wasn't a fluke—she's so much better than most actresses of her generation that it's scary. The same can definitely be said for Tremblay, too, who somehow handles his character's heartbreaking journey with multi-layered nuance. Together, Larson and Tremblay forge a loving and tender chemistry that helps Room sidestep the inherent misery of its subject matter. You'll won't cry because of them—you'll cry with them.
Where to see it: Angelika Film Center, Friday and Saturday at 10:45 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 10:05 p.m.; Sunday at 10:45 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 9:45 p.m.