Room

Room is the kind of film some will not find appealing. The subject matter is rough. But superlative acting and a hopeful outlook are good reasons to see and appreciate Room, a movie that will certainly garner multiple award nominations.

Joy (Brie Larson) is a prisoner in a shed she calls Room. It’s in a backyard behind a home in a normal American urban neighborhood. She was captured when she was 17. Larson offers one of the bravest performances seen in some time. Extreme close-ups of her unmade-up face reveal the raw sadness of her situation. Yet, because of her son, she maintains a glimmer of optimism.

Her son is Jack (Jacob Tremblay), fathered by the man holding her captive, a man she calls Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). Jack is a bright 5-year-old with a great spirit. His knowledge of the outside world is limited to what his mother tells him and what he sees on a TV with bad reception. This child will touch your emotions.

Their existence is dispiriting. A toilet, a bathtub, a sink, a toaster oven, a space heater, a bed, a lamp or two and… that’s about it. A skylight above lets in a bit of daylight.

Jack pretends to be asleep in the wardrobe when Old Nick visits for his assignations with his captive.

Joy cooks up a bold plan to get the two of them out of Room. With Jack’s help, it works.

The grim circumstance of life in Room is unimaginable. But director Lenny Abrahamson, working from Emily Donoghue’s script, makes the minimal living space real. Life after the escape from Room is challenging to all in different ways.

The adjustment to the outside world is especially difficult for Joy. Her divorced parents Bob (William H. Macy) and Nancy (Joan Allen) are initially supportive, but dad can’t abide the situation. Mom and her boyfriend Leo (Tom McCamus) work to get Joy and Jack back on track.

Larson’s talent was revealed in 2013’s acclaimed but generally unseen Short Term 12. She was Amy Schumer’s sister in this summer’s Trainwreck. Her work in Room has already stirred up Oscar talk. And it’s not out of the question that the 8-year-old Tremblay could be up for awards season glory.

Room may be too grim for some moviegoers to check out, but it’s likely to reinforce faith in the human spirit for all who see it. To maintain hope in the face of such a terrible situation is moving and inspiring.

The Sessions

Is it okay to laugh at a handicapped guy?  In this case, yes. Mark O’Brien has a wicked sense of humor. He would appreciate your laughter.

John Hawkes is emerging as a brilliant actor, although most folks don’t know him. He received an Oscar nomination in 2010 for his work in “Winter’s Bone” and will likely get another for his portrayal of real life character Mark O’Brien in “The Sessions.”

O’Brien was stricken by polio as a child. As an adult, he is in an iron lung for several hours each day. He hires caregivers who help him participate in life. He attends the University of California in Berkley. He is a virgin.

O’Brien hires a sexual surrogate, played by Helen Hunt, to introduce him to the ways of sex. Their sessions, which contain graphic nudity, are often funny and sometimes touching (pun intended). Despite the nature of these scenes, they are neither shocking nor erotic.

Between their therapy sessions, O’Brien seeks counsel from his priest, played by William H. Macy. The priest sanctions the liaisons and listens as O’Brien relates his experiences.

As the story continues, O’Brien develops affection for Hunt’s character. She, however, is married and keeps things professional. Mostly.

Because O’Brien is an intelligent man with that sharp sense of humor, we don’t feel as sad for him as we might for others with a similar handicap. He is one of the most interesting real life characters depicted onscreen in some time. Hawkes brings him to life beautifully.

“The Sessions” will not be a big box office hit and may not be shown beyond the artsier movie houses. But, for grownups, this movie delivers the sensitive telling of a sweet story and strong performances from the trio of lead actors.