Sunday, 22 May 2016
Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Emma Donoghue this intense and intimate drama is gripping and engaging whilst also being something that at the same time both attracts and repels. Set in Akron Ohio, the first half of the film takes place in a shed where Ma (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) are held captive by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). Ma was kidnapped when she was 17 and is regularly raped by Old Nick. Jack, who turns five near the start of the film, is the fruit of this liaison. Ma and Jack live on spartan rations in their tiny room with only a skylight connecting them to the outer world.
The acting performances of the main two characters are as good as it gets and Brie Larson is fully deserving of her Oscar. However, for me the plot raises more than a few questions. I find it hard to believe that after seven years Ma is in such good spirits and in a seemingly stable and balanced state of mind. To have raised a son with such limited resources and stimuli almost defies belief. In my naivete, thinking I knew the plot, I had assumed that the story was about their attempts to escape their captivity. The fact that they achieve success halfway through the film was like getting two films for the price of one!
I don't know about you, but with some actors I always see them in a particular role that has stuck in my mind for some reason rather than the new character being presented. So for me, it was really odd to discover Ma's parents were in fact Pamela Landy from the Bourne saga and Quiz Kid Donnie Smith from Magnolia!
As well as giving us an excellent exploration of being captive and in Jack's case not knowing anything else, the film also sensitively surveys the impact of abduction on the wider family and the painful process of helping captives reintegrate with society and family. The intrusive and odious press are depicted in all their ghoulish ugliness.
I could say a lot more about the film but I will leave that for you to discover. It is well worth watching just as it is - but it will repay a little work and reflection on themes of motherhood, nature/nurture, psychological effects of captivity, how families cope with trauma, how someone can get away with it for so long in a regular suburban context. This is well worth watching - I'll give it 8/10.