TORONTO – Since arriving at the Toronto International Film Festival last Thursday, I’ve been waiting for a film to pack a true emotional wallop. “Brooklyn” and “Freeheld” definitely came close, but it’s no easy trick to make this jaded film writer cry – but let me say that “Room,” today, Did Me In. Afterwards, I needed to walk in the sunshine, which somehow seemed more beautiful than usual, and let the movie sink in and dissipate; it changed me, for a little while, as all good movies (or books, or ballets, or any art) should do.
Based on Emma Donoghue’s startling, brilliant book (and smoothly adapted by Donoghue herself), “Room” tells a horrifying story: A young woman is held captive in a tiny shed, for many years; during that time, she gives birth to a child fathered by her captor. The story is told from the child’s point of view; five-year-old Jack doesn’t see Room as a prison, but simply as the place where he lives with his Ma – he knows no other world. The book, and the movie, are divided into two parts: life in Room, and life, after a harrowing escape, outside it, where everything to Jack is dizzingly new.
Brie Larson, as the mother, gives a searing performance that both hurts your heart and mends it again; little Jacob Tremblay, as Jack, holds the movie in his hands and never lets go. Things aren’t magically happily-ever-after for Ma and Jack, but there’s a sense of gentle wonder in the film’s final act that feels perfectly right for this character, and this story. “Room” opens in theaters in late October; see it, and be transformed.
Also terrific today, if not quite transformative: Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” which is the crusading-journalist movie that “Truth,” yesterday, wanted to be. It’s a swift, skilled ensemble piece, about the Boston Globe team investigating – and breaking the story – of the cover-up in the Catholic diocese of child abuse by priests. Very “All the President’s Men”-ish; very satisfying, particularly Mark Ruffalo’s performance as the kind of thorn-in-your-side journalist who never stops asking questions and thumping on tables. It’ll be in theaters in November.
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Elsewhere, business continues: The Helen Mirren military drama “Eye in the Sky” sold today to the up-and-coming distributor Bleecker Street; a 2016 release is planned. And word is that “Amazing Grace,” a concert documentary about a 1972 Aretha Franklin church concert, is in a bidding war, despite its TIFF screening being cancelled at the last minute due to legal issues – it did play here, but only to a private audience.
And the celebrity spotting has been thin for me this year; apparently the real sightings are late at night at the Ritz-Carlton bar. I keep thinking, though, that I’ve spotted Stanley Tucci; either he really gets around, or a lot of men in Toronto look like him. (He’s very good in “Spotlight,” by the way.) Does it count that a friend of mine saw Tom Hiddleston on the sidewalk over the weekend? More later; TIFF doesn’t sleep, but I do.