Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. Ireland/Canada, 2015. Element Pictures, Film 4, FilmNation Entertainment, Irish Film Board, No Trace Camping, Ontario Media Development Corporation, Telefilm Canada. Screenplay by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel. Cinematography by Danny Cohen. Produced by David Gross, Ed Guiney. Music by Stephen Rennicks. Production Design by Ethan Tobman. Costume Design by Lea Carlson. Film Editing by Nathan Nugent. Academy Awards 2015. AFI Film of the Year 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2015. Gotham Awards 2015. Independent Spirit Awards 2015. Toronto International Film Festival 2015. Washington Film Critics Award 2015.
We are introduced to a mother and son spending their days in a tiny one-room apartment that very quickly reveals a much more horrible truth: she (Brie Larson) was abducted seven years earlier and has been forced to stay in this padlocked cell the entire time, giving birth to her captor’s son and raising him with only theoretical knowledge of the outside world. When mother and child finally manage to escape and go home to her parents (Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Tom McCamus as stepfather), new challenges arise: she has spent all this time putting on a brave face for her child and, now that he is adjusting to a world so foreign that he needs to be taught to climb stairs, she can finally unleash the rage and frustration she has been repressing for so long. Larson’s experience is the more interesting aspect of the story, but it is shoved aside to make room for the kind of cutesy manipulative Wonder Child garbage that is typical of bestseller adaptations: you throw in a line like Larson telling Allen that she got kidnapped because her mother had taught her to be friendly to the point of easily manipulated is a fascinating avenue that is never explored, but hey, how adorable is it that a little kid gives his mom his pony tail. Jacob Tremblay is skilled and sympathetic as the youngster who is born all over again when the doors are opened to the outside world, but the film’s swelling music every time he widens his eyes is shameless encouragement to coo over his magnificent innocence, made worse by his narrating the film, his shrieky voice offering reactions but little in the way of insight. Larson is exceptional as the woman who has turned sex slavery into a pervertedly peaceful home life in order to save her son’s sanity, her layers of love and misery always bewitching but shockingly undervalued. It’s a classier Deep End Of The Ocean, with a surprisingly bad Macy doing David Mamet-style twitching in a mid-western living room, and a resolution that puts too comfortable a conclusion onto a situation that has no easy answers.