It’s hard to think of a movie adaptation of a book that feels truer and more loyal to its source than Room. In part, that’s thanks to the precise environment Emma Donoghue crafted in her Orange Prize-winning 2010 novel, the majority of which was set in an 11-foot by 11-foot insulated space with a lone skylight. But the book was also narrated in its entirety by a 5-year-old boy, and much of its power and poignancy came from how well Donoghue captured the voice and perspective of such a small child—a much trickier endeavor for film, where childlike naivete and wonder can often become mawkish.
Room’s director, Lenny Abrahamson—whose previous film was the offbeat Frank, starring Michael Fassbender as an eccentric musician who wears a large papier-maché head—navigates the balance with remarkable finesse, working from a screenplay written by Donoghue. The movie opens with Jack (Jacob Tremblay) describing the events of his fifth birthday, and the details of the tiny universe he inhabits, Room. His Ma (Brie Larson), he explains, was alone in Room until he “zoomed down from heaven” to save her.
The agony of Donoghue’s book is in how long it takes to piece together the evidence given Jack’s limited capabilities as an interpreter, but here it’s soon clear that Ma and Jack are prisoners. Their only visitor is Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), who’s keeping them captive, and who rapes Ma while Jack sleeps in the closet.