October 15, 2015 / 7:44 PM / 3 years ago

'Room' finds uplifting message in distressing tale of captivity

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After exploring drug addiction, depression and suicide in his previous films, Irish director Lenny Abrahamson found his most “uplifting” movie in “Room,” a harrowing tale of a young woman held hostage for seven years in her neighbor’s garden shed.

Director Lenny Abrahamson attends a news conference to promote the film Room at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF ) in Toronto, September 14, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill

Abrahamson, known for independent films such as “Frank,” “Garage” and “Adam & Paul,” told Reuters that “Room,” a story about a kidnapped young woman and her young son born in captivity, was a “journey from darkness into light.”

“If you can take a situation as dark as that and show how it’s possible for people to still come through it, survive, thrive, then the film becomes a celebration of those deep relationships we have with each other,” he said.

A24’s “Room,” based on Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name and out in U.S. theaters on Friday, explores the intense relationship between Ma (Brie Larson) and five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) as they co-exist in ‘Room.’

Jack, who was born in ‘Room’, knows nothing outside of it until he slowly learns of the world beyond the four walls that contain him through storybooks that their captor brings him.

“To have this little boy who could step into the world for the first time with a pretty nice vocabulary and be able to explain to us what the world looks like to him was such a beautiful glimpse that I hadn’t seen,” Larson said.

Critics have received the film well, singling out young star Tremblay, who was aged 7 during filming and had to perform raw emotional scenes with Larson.

“It turns out he’s a real actor,” the director said.

“When you’re trying to do these really complicated scenes, he’s going to goof off or have off days, and it’s about helping bringing him back and making him feel comfortable.”

The tale echoes real-life kidnapping victims such as Utah’s Elizabeth Smart, held hostage for nine months, and Natascha Kampusch, who was held hostage for eight years in Austria. Abrahamson said he researched real cases to get a sense of what daily life was like for the victims.

“Any life becomes routine when it lasts for long enough,” he said.

The film also explores the media fascination with such cases, and people’s desire to know “the darkest, the dirtiest and nastiest” details.

“That’s the terrible dimension of cynicism that does exist in the media and it’s driven by public appetite as well,” Abrahamson said.

(This version of the story corrects name of production studio to A24 from Weinstein Co in paragraph 4)

Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Diane Craft

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