Joy (Brie Larson; 21 Jump Street) has spent 7 years locked in this room/shed in the backyard. Five of those years she shared it with her son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay; The Smurfs 2). Captive of a man they call "old Nick" (Sean Bridgers; The Best of Me) who Joy attempted to help when she was 17 years old. Lured away from her family and her freedom, she has spent 7 years as his sex slave while trying to survive and keep herself and her son alive.
The first half of the film explores Joy's and Jack's daily lives in this room. Joy makes up stories for Jack as to what could be on the other side (Aliens and space) while seeing to it that his basic needs like hygiene, exercise and some form of education are all met. The second half delves into how Joy and Jack cope with the real world and going "home".
Larson does an outstanding job of portraying a young woman trying to be strong despite her circumstances, and eventually falling apart once she and Jack are "safe". Joan Allen (The Bourne Legacy) as Joy's mother displays equal parts the loving woman who has regained her child and guilt-ridden woman as she must come to terms with what her daughter has been through the past 7 years. Tremblay does a good job for someone his age.
Director, Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) uses shading to his advantage, helping the audience to try and understand what it must be like for Jack, so new to the outside world. His technique of choosing extreme close-ups inside the room was very effective in giving a glimpse of the claustrophobic surroundings these characters endured. While Abrahamson edited the movie down to just under two hours, I was so invested in them that the runtime felt inadequately short.
Feelings of fear, sadness, and anxiety haunted me form the very beginning of the film and at moments there were audible gasps, ooooohs, and awwwwws throughout the audience. The feeling of discomfort, even after Joy and Jack were rescued, never quite left me and made a lasting impression. Perhaps, as the mother of two teenage girls, the movie resonated with me in a very real sense, which only served to add to my uneasiness.
Arguably a brilliant and poignant piece of filmmaking, the movie is thought-provoking and relevant. Practically borrowing from recent years headlines, the story reminds us to keep our kids close and treasure every moment we have with them.