Brie Larson finds a Room of her own By Nolan Feeney

ONE OF THE MOST HAUNT- ing scenes in Room isn’t something audiences even see. Five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has spent his whole life in a 10-by-io-ft. shed where his kidnapped mother has been imprisoned for the past seven years— only he doesn’t know they’re trapped. Each day his mom (Brie Larson) tries to make his childhood normal with exercises and games, and each night she hides him in the wardrobe to shield him from seeing the sexual as­sault she endures from her captor. Viewers are right there with Jack, peering through the cracks, hearing only the bed creak, which is more than evocative enough. “None of us needed to come with our trauma paint­brushes and add extra colors to it,” Larson says.

It’s one of the many ways that Room, the film adapta­tion of Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel of the same name, plays with perspec­tive to great effect. Directed by Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson and written by Donoghue herself, Room alternates between shaky camera work at Tremblay’s height and still shots from Larson’s to create competing senses of childlike wonder and grownup claustrophobia. It’s also the rare film to shine a light on the aftermath kid­napping survivors face once their ordeal is over.

Stories like those of Aus­trian woman Elisabeth Fritzl (who was imprisoned by her father for 24 years and bore

For Room’s Jack (Jacob

Tremblay), the shed where he’s held captive is the only home he’s ever known

him seven children) or Ohio man Ariel Castro (who kept three women in his house for about a decade) often become media sensations. But more than half of Boom’s running time explores what happens after they return home. The escape scene, suspenseful even for those who’ve read the book, isn’t a plot point to be spoiled. Instead, it’s the moment when the film cracks open and a mother’s struggle to reintegrate becomes the movie’s emotional core.

“This woman that seems to have it together, given the circumstances, falls apart,” Larson says. “[When] things are scary, your brain goes into superhero mode. That’s not the moment when you
cry—it’s afterwards, when the brain has time to reflect.” Larson, 26, had a break­out role on the Showtime se­ries United States of Tara and appeared as Amy Schumer’s sister in this summer’s Train- wreck, but it was her starring turn as a counselor for at- risk teens in the 2013 indie hit Short Term 12 that made her a critics’ darling. Room may bring her more acclaim still; the film won the Peo­ple’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, a solid predic­tor of a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

To prepare for the role, Larson avoided sunlight for months and worked with a nutritionist and a trainer to understand the physi­cal impacts of captivity. She also spoke at length with a trauma expert to understand how the brain functions dur­ing crisis, knowledge she draws on while explaining how the role nearly con­sumed her. “Your brain so badly wants to help you—it wants to constantly conserve energy,” she says. “You’re playing somebody else for 12 hours a day, so the only time I’m me is when I sleep.

If you’re doing that for days and days, your brain starts to rewire itself.”

But instead of breaking her spirit, the heavy material instilled in Larson a renewed sense of gratitude. Every few days during filming, she’d call her mother, apologizing for the ways she misbehaved as a teen. She suspects Room will give viewers a similar feeling. “This isn’t a torture story.

This isn’t a crime story. It’s about something that’s big­ger than that,” Larson says.

“It’s not people crying be­cause the movie’s so sad—it’s s because they feel so in love with the world again.” □ s

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