Room

Director: Lenny Abrahamson (2016)

Disturbingly dark and horribly tense, this modern day fable is all the more gripping for the love at the heart of its story.

It’s told through the eyes of five year old Jack via Jacob Tremblay’s astonishing emotionally truthful performance.

He’s grown up in a decaying and cramped single room, entertained with tales of imaginary worlds told by his only companion, his mother Joy.

She’s played by the staggering excellent Brie Larson and the pair share a wonderfully warm chemistry.

Larson has been deservedly BAFTA nominated for leading actress and named as one of their Rising Stars of 2016. An Oscar nom should also be forthcoming.

At night Jack must hide in the cupboard to sleep because a bogeyman called thrusts himself into their world.

We hear of him and hear his voice long before we see him and Sean Bridgers is brilliantly and pathetically creepy as the predatory Old Nick.

Joan Allen and William H. Macy provide strong support as Joy’s parents Nancy and Robert.

As adults we can guess at the truths hidden from Jack and our fears for him and Joy make for a thoroughly unsettling watch.

A great deal of this could have oozed from the mind of Terry Gilliam in his disturbing Tideland (2006) phase.

After confronting Old Nick it is Jack’s turn to keep Joy from the grasp of the room’s demons.

Their mutual love is the thin thread of hope to which they cling to survive

The extraordinary central performances are supported by smart direction, scriptwriting and cinematography.

Emma Donaghue’s screenplay from her novel (pub. 2010) has been nominated by BAFTA for best adapted screenplay. Apart from this category and Larson’s acting nod, the film has sadly been overlooked for British honours.

Room was lensed by Danny Cohen, one of Britain’s most illustrious and hard working cinematographers.

Along with Roger Deakins, Cohen seems destined never to win an Academy Award for his work.

He was nominated for Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech (2010) and worked again with the director Tom Hooper on the The Danish Girl (2016). Other recent work includes X+Y (2015) and London Road (2015).

Cohen has frequently collaborated with Shane Meadows on the This Is England TV series and his ability to capture grimy realities is fully exploited in Room.

There’s always room at the top for films this good.

 

Trainwreck

Director: Judd Apatow (2015)

This comedy about a young woman on the path to redemption feels like a series of sketches strung together by a threadbare plot.

Amy Schumer writes and stars and though she and co-star Bill Hader are engaging, their charm and talent can’t overcome the limitations of the script or the dead hand of director Apatow.

It is indulgent in length, grossly sentimental, fawning to celebrities, loosely improvisational and insufficient scenes to are brought to a strong close. Too often too many characters are allowed to waffle.

Drunk and promiscuous journalist Amy Townsend (Schumer) has a varied if unfulfilling sex life and is merrily chasing promotion at work at edgy magazine S’nuff.

Her colleagues are irritating idiots and her boss Dianna is played by an alarmingly accented Tilda Swinton. The hard-faced career woman is contrasted with Amy’s sister Kim (Brie Larson). She’s a warm, soft role model of stable maternity.

A happy homeless man offers a warning as to how Amy’s life may develop if she doesn’t change her wanton ways. She enables him in the worst possible way.

Dianna sends Amy off to interview Dr. Aaron Conners (Hader). He’s a knee surgeon famous for saving the careers of sportspeople I’ve mostly never heard of.

Before she realises it she’s falling in love, rejecting her former life of drugs and fun and embracing sobriety and monogamy.

Amy pulls a reverse Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) from Grease (1978). She migrates from independent woman to a person subservient to the needs of her un-inspirational boyfriend. But he’s a doctor, so that’s alright.

Even Grease’s Danny Zucco (John Travolta) recognises he has to compromise his behaviour to win the heart of Sandy. But Aaron is oblivious of the potential to change and so Amy must bend to meet his needs. The leader of the T’Birds is far more progressive than anyone on show here.

By the end Amy is publicly humiliating herself to prove her worth in a way that would have made her earlier, more attractive persona shudder.

Embracing family and domesticity is presented as the pinnacle of female endeavour. Her career success is dependent on the reflected glory of her beau.

The story is in thrall to the sexual politics of the ’50’s, the 1850’s. Even Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre pub. 1847) would blush to write a female so eager to be defined by a man for happiness and fulfilment.

There’s a funeral, a baby shower, an invasive medical procedure and several dates. It’s not the least embarrassed to lift from Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979).

Featuring far too much basketball, someone called LeBron James features prominently as an emotional mentor to Aaron. Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, Matthew Broderick and err, former Tennis champ Chris Evert all appear.

Amy gives a 16 year old – a legal minor – alcohol, assaults him and then attempts to have sex with him. Good luck switching the genders and getting away with that scene.

All of these failings could be overlooked if the film was rip-roaringly funny and entertaining – but it rarely musters a chuckle. The funniest scene is the first one – and Schumer isn’t in it.