The Academy Award race may have become a little clearer after the People’s Choice Award at TIFF was awarded to the drama Room at the end of the 11 day festival. Although Canadian-made films aren’t always likely to receive this type of success at TIFF, Room prevailed over the other films and received the prestigious $15,000 Grolsch People’s Choice Award.
Room, often described as a haunting and intriguing drama is based on the best-selling Man Booker Prize-nominated novel by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue (she also wrote the screenplay). this is the story of five-year-old Jack, who lives in an 11-by-11-foot room with his mother. Since it’s all he’s ever known, Jack believes that only “Room” and the things it contains (including himself and Ma) are real. Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has never stepped foot outside of this tiny shed he shares with Ma (Brie Larson) because it’s a prison built for them by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), their kidnapper. Although based on the shocking case of an Austrian father who enslaved his own daughter and had children by her, all entirely captive, the novel and this film dispense with brutality in favour of imagination, and immense sympathy and sensitivity. Despite such a life, Ma refuses to let her son suffer from the truth, concocting an elaborate fantasy that would have him believe that theirs is the only world that exists and that nothing lies beyond the shed’s walls. When Jack’s finally ready to take part in a dramatic escape, Ma must explain, and they both must act, soon finding themselves in an overwhelming outside world that, ironically, is perhaps more terrifying than the prison they’ve abandoned.
Both actors Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay have already received high praise for their individual performances as well as their on-screen chemistry. Larson’s performance in Room has been considered by critics as a performance that “confirms she’s one of the greatest performers of her generation”. Additionally, Larson’s emotional range has been seen as “dazzling, with occasional eye-rolls and looks in the first half hinting at how one’s psyche would fare in the situation but at the same time she evokes such tremendous love for Jack that her maternal bond to her child as depicted here will move even the most jaded audience members” (Full Review here). As for the performance of Tremblay, some critics consider this to be one of the great child performances on film recently.
Receiving the People’s Choice at TIFF often is a strong indicator of future Academy Award Success. Room is in good company with previous winners. Last year at TIFF the People’s Choice Award went to The Imitation Game which went on to receive 8 Oscar nominations, winning one for best adapted screenplay. Additionally, in other previous years this award went to films such as 12 Years a Slave (Oscar wins for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay), The Kings Speech (Oscar wins for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Original Screenplay), and Slumdog Millionaire (Oscar wins for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay).
For audiences wanting to see Room, the film will have two screening dates at VIFF: September 28th at 8:30pm (Center for Performing Arts) and October 2nd at 5:00pm (International Village #10). TICKETS. Check out the incredible trailer below.