A darling of the fall festival circuit, the Irish-Canadian co-pro Room
is worthy of every accolade piled atop its scrappy, sensitive shoulders. Based on Emma Donoghue’s novel, it stars Brie Larson as a woman who was abducted as a teenager and kept in a 10-by-10 shed as a sex slave. This situation has produced a son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who we meet at five years old as a hopeful, exuberant child who knows literally nothing of the outside world. The first half of the film, directed with grace and care by Lenny Abrahamson (whose last movie was the weird Michael Fassbender romp Frank
), is set in the room itself, as we see how Ma has established a routine of exercise, hygiene and nutrition for Jack with extremely limited resources, a system that also keeps her from losing it. Whenever Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) shows up to rape her—we never see it, but the mundane routine of it is the most chilling part—she hides Jack away, fiercely protective. The back half focuses on their escape—in one of the most thrilling sequences of the year, better than any action film’s paltry computer constructions—and settling into “real” life with her parents (Joan Allen and William H. Macy). At first you’re just relieved it’s not the horror show you were expecting, and then you’re crying into your hands. Room is a harrowing, joyful experience that stays with you.