The setup of Room, a disarmingly interior story from its claustrophobic first half to the surprising second half, is how a mother (Brie Larson) and her young son (Jacob Tremblay) have to survive in a confined space.
An unusual opening sequence gradually establishes a narrative framework of kidnap and incarceration, not dissimilar to those in films such as The Collector (1965) and Michael (2011).
To fully reveal what that is would unleash all kinds of spoilers, but there is an emphasis here on survival, complex emotions, trauma and readjusting to environments.
Whilst the story could have descended into daytime mush, Abrahamson and his team skilfully tread a fine line of raw honesty, then lace it with knots of fear, anger, grief, hope and love.
Larson impressed in Short Term 12 (2013), but here she really excels and was well deserving of her Oscar for Best Actress. Yet, even she was slightly upstaged by the young Tremblay, who gives one of the greatest child performances of recent decades.
Not only does he manage the difficult nature of the project with considerable aplomb but shows astonishing maturity for his age, without resorting easy sentiment, which the script and direction never allow.
In a year of quality dramas (Spotlight, The Big Short, The Revenant and Brooklyn), this was perhaps the most emotionally draining. Yet, there was a redemptive quality about Room that made it particularly special.
Room in out now on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD from Studiocanal
One of the great films of the 1980s, this samurai version of the Bard’s bleakest tragedy still ranks as one of the great Shakespeare adaptations and one of the defining works of the famed Japanese writer-director.
By the 1980s his global fame was already established, but he directed two further classics, both of them epics. The first was Kagemusha (1980), the tale of a common thief who must impersonate a dying ruler in 16th century Japan.
The second was Ran (1985), whose various translations into English can mean ‘chaos’, ‘revolt’ or ‘confused’, and this would be a worthy tribute to arguably the Bard’s bleakest play.
Transferred to feudal Japan, it charts the hell unleashed when an ageing warlord (Tatsuya Nakadai) experiences a dream that causes him to divide his kingdom among his three sons (played by Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu and Daisuke Ryû) with predictably tragic consequences.
If you have never seen Ran before, the astonishing scale of the film is absolutely stunning. In the current digital age it is hard to image how many of the sequences were actually captured without the use of CGI.
Although the extraordinary battle sequences are incredible to behold, repeat viewings reveal Kurosawa’s subtle handling of the ruling family dynamics and how the arrogance of a single ruler can trigger brutal carnage and destruction.
The late, great Sidney Lumet (himself a master of American cinema) was very perceptive about Kurosawa and Ran:
Obviously Shakespeare’s play remains shockingly relevant, but Kurosawa brought his own distinct flavour to proceedings reimagining the essential elements story into a different culture and time.
In his best work, and this ranks among his finest, Kurosawa also had a knack of connecting inner emotions, such as pride and envy, with larger scale themes of war, betrayal and destruction.
He then used these as a rock solid foundation for crafting one of the great cinema epics, laden with startling visuals, intricate period detail and tremendous performances.
The new 4K restoration, courtesy of Studiocanal and ICO (Independent Cinema Office), renders this masterpiece in new levels of detail and comes with the following extras:
– Akira Kurosawa : The Epic and the Intimate
– Akira Kurosawa by Catherine Cadou
– Art of the Samurai
– Interview with the Director of Photography – Mr Ueda
– Interview with Ms Mieko Harada (As Kaede)
– Interview with Michael Brooke
– Stage Appearance at Tokyo International Film Festival 2015
– The Samurai
Studiocanal release Ran today (May 2nd) on Blu-ray and DVD