Esther McCarthy review Room and The Revenant
Room (15A) *****
Director Lenny Abrahamson and his cast and crew deserve all the love and attention they're getting for this terrific drama.
It's sad and sometimes harrowing, to be sure - but Abrahamson never lets the subject matter tip into mawkishness, and there's hope to be found here too.
Brie Larson is Ma, a young woman struggling to find normality as she raises her young son, Jack (newcomer Jacob Tremblay - superb) in the most abnormal of circumstances.
They're incarcerated, we learn, in a room at the back of her abductor's garden, after she was kidnapped seven years earlier. Not that Jack, 5, understands that concept - he thinks 'room' is all there is and is unaware of the outside world.
When a series of circumstances pushes Ma to the limit, she decides to make a break for freedom with the help of her son. What's fascinating about this film is that it deals as much with the aftermath as it does with Ma and Jack's initial reality.
Emma Donoghue has fashioned a fine script out of her own bestselling novel, and neither she nor her director ever allow their characters or the audience to be manipulated. It's a stunning piece of work, and a credit to everyone involved.
The Revenant (16) *****
Don't bother betting against Leo DiCaprio for his long-overdue Oscar this year - he gives a brilliant, committed performance in Alejandro Inarritu's visceral, brutal revenge flick.
The story is based loosely on the legendary tale of hunter and explorer Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) who is left for dead by two of his men after being violently attacked by a bear (in a scene I won't forget any time soon) during an expedition in the US in the early 1800s.
Inarritu's film focuses on his fight for survival - and poor Leo gets put through the mill in so many ways, from sheltering in an animal carcass to keep warm during a bleak winter, to eating offal, to the aforementioned bear mauling.
This is a violent film but unlike Tarantino's Hateful Eight, the gore feels relevant. An on-form Domhnall Gleeson also stars as the head of the expedition, while Tom Hardy smoulders as Glass's nemesis, and the man he blames for leaving him behind. I'm not going to lie and say The Revenant is easy viewing, but it's a superb survival/revenge drama that offers numerous rewards.