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This weekend, 12 years after director Lenny Abrahamson first brought a movie to the Telluride Film Festival, the indie filmmaker returned to the fest in the Rockies to unveil his latest and greatest work, Room. A harrowing drama adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own 2010 bestselling novel, the two-hander stars Brie Larson and eight-year-old Jacob Tremblay as a mother and child held captive for years in a small room with only each other to hold onto — and their performances can hold their own with any this year. Based on the audience’s reaction at its first-anywhere screening on Friday night and two others that followed — floods of tears and standing ovations — I suspect that a number of major Oscar noms are within reach.
In terms of the acting races, Larson for lead actress is the most obvious push — the 25-year-old proves once again, as she last did in 2013’s remarkable Short Term 12 (for which she was criminally snubbed), that she is not only one of the top talents of her generation, but particularly terrific opposite even younger thespians.
An effort for Tremblay is equally merited. Kids don’t often get nominated, but this one gives one of the all-time great performances by a child actor and would become one of the youngest people ever nominated for an Oscar — Kramer vs. Kramer‘s Justin Henry was almost nine when he was nominated, and it’s unclear how far beyond the age of eight Tremblay will be when the next set of noms are announced. (By the way, hat-tip to casting director Fiona Weir, who previously filled out the Harry Potter films, for pairing together Larson and Tremblay, who actually look like they’re related.)
Additionally, I think a nom is attainable for the great Joan Allen (she already has three under her belt) in the supporting actress category. She has very limited screen time but makes the most of it, just as Wild‘s Laura Dern did last year en route to a nom.
Elsewhere, I think Donoghue’s adapted screenplay has a good shot. Rare is the year when at least one slot in that category doesn’t go to someone for adapting their own earlier work, and I suspect the members of the writers branch will really dig the innovative ways in which this difficult story is told.
And last, but certainly not least, I firmly believe that a picture nom could happen. It seems to me that Room shares a lot of DNA with 2013 best picture Oscar nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild (for which another excellent performance by a child also was nominated). The two films are set in totally different places and about totally different things, but the heart and soul of both is the relationship between a struggling single parent and a precocious young child enduring horrific adversity together, with the child voicing, in on-screen interactions and through voiceover narration, a unique and endearing sort of wisdom about the world beyond his and her confines. It worked once, so why shouldn’t it work again?
You can bet that the film’s distributor A24, which is hungrier than ever for some Academy love after last year’s egregious across-the-board snub of A Most Violent Year, will give it every chance it’s got.
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