Irish Film Review: Room


DIR: Lenny Abrahamson • WRI: Emma Donoghue • PRO: David Gross, Ed Guiney • DOP: Danny Cohen • ED: Nathan Nugent • DES: Ethan Tobman • MUS: Stephen Rennicks • CAST: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers


Four walls, of what can be no bigger than a small garden shed, have never felt so vast. But this is the limitless scope of Jack’s 5 year old imagination. For Jack, ‘Room’ is the world. Looking up through a skylight, outside is sky, and space, and aliens. Jack and Ma try shouting at the aliens, but they don’t hear them today. Room’s borders are everything. Room… Room… Room. This is all Jack knows, having no concept that a world outside exists. There are cats and dogs and people on TV, but they’re not real. At least that’s what Ma says. But now Ma says she lied.

Ma’s protected Jack from the truth. She’s kept him strong psychologically, built him emotionally from the ground up, carefully preparing him for his eventual escape. Inside Room, Ma has created a rich and spacious world for her child’s imagination, free from the literal reality. The literal reality is that Jack and Ma are caged up like wild animals, in a meagerly furnished Zoo pen. Ma was captured by mean old Nick, and hasn’t left Room in 7 years. But in the inhumanity of this situation, director Lenny Abrahamson finds a breeding ground for warmth, love and affection. There’s no artifice to the story’s structure, which is propelled along by an intoxicating earnestness. At the narrative’s core is this maternal bond between a mother and child.

Emma Donoghue adapted the script from her Man Booker-nominated novel of the same name. Donoghue is anything but a one trick pony, and shows masterful dexterity as a writer, as she jumps ship from novel to screenplay. She’s dived head first into the material, and fearlessly pares her novel down to its core. The most profound difference is that the movie works on its own terms. It makes no attempt to imitate the novel, or try to suggest Jack’s magical thinking with ham-handed visual trickery. According to Abrahamson, the movie’s all about Jack’s face, and the film is grounded with a rich cinematic naturalism. His face is our key to a rich inner world. This more naturalistic quality towards the visual approach of the film was something Abrahamson knew from the get-go; and a point he even used to woo author Emma Donoghue in his initial pitch.

Over and over, Irish director Lenny Abrahamson has proved himself a talent to watch. He’s made a successful career with intimate, character-driven dramas (Adam & Paul, What Richard Did). So in one sense Room is similar territory; in another sense Room elevates the intimate character drama to a more epic scale, while never losing sight of its simple humanity. It’s a fine line, and Abrahamson walks it expertly. This is a director in his absolute element, and at the peak of his powers.

Since winning the audience award at the Toronto film festival, Room has unsurprisingly generated healthy awards buzz. And this is hardly surprising, since Room offers the highest calibre of craftsmanship in virtually every department; though the performances take centre stage. Brie Larson deserves every accolade on the table and it still wouldn’t be enough; she endlessly radiates compassion and affection, making everyone in the audience with anything of a soul, wish she was their Ma. And Jacob Tremblay’s performance glows with the simple honesty that surely paves the way for a powerful acting talent. The story is further reinforced by Danny Cohen’s masterfully unimposing cinematography and Stephen Rennicks’ earthy score, which is at times both ethereal and euphoric.

In Room, Abrahamson has created a masterful oddity; a world that’s spatially confined, but emotionally limitless and arresting. Abrahamson works within the scope of narrative and cinematic limits, and yet somehow in the end, exceeds those limits tenfold. Room is one of those unique films, that by way of what must be magic or osmosis, excels beyond the sum of its parts. It’s the kind of estranged logic that lets two plus two equal five, when it should only equal four.

Michael Lee

117 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Room is released 15th January 2016

Room – Official Website



Irish Nominations for Golden Globes



The nominations for the 73rd Golden Globe Awards have been announced with a number of Irish featured amongst the nominations. Lenny Abrahamson’s Room was nominated in the category of Best Motion Picture. Emma Donoghue was nominated for Best Screenplay for Room, which she adapted from her own award-winning book. And Brie Larson made it a hat trick of nominations for Room with her nomination in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture.

Saoirse Ronan was also nominated in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture alongside Larson for her performance in Brooklyn.

Michael Fassbender was nominated in the category of Best Actor in a Motion Picture for his performance in Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs. Caitriona Balfe received a nomination in the category of Best Actress in a TV series for Outlander. Also in this category is Eva Green, nominated for her role in Penny Dreadful, which was shot on location in Dublin.

The 73rd Golden Globe Awards will take place on January 10th 2016 in Beverly Hills California.


The full list of 2016 Golden Globe award nominations:

Best Motion Picture, Drama
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Best Motion Picture, Comedy
The Big Short
The Martian

Best Director – Motion Picture
Todd Haynes, Carol
Alejandro Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max
Ridley Scott, The Martian

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Melissa McCarthy, Spy
Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
Maggie Smith, Lady in the Van
Lily Tomlin, Grandma

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Jane Fonda, Youth
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Will Smith, Concussion

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Steve Carell, The Big Short
Matt Damon, The Martian
Al Pacino, Danny Collins
Mark Ruffalo, Infinitely Polar Bear

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Best TV Series, Drama

Game of Thrones
Mr. Robot

Best TV Series, Comedy
Mozart in the Jungle
Orange Is the New Black
Silicon Valley

Best TV Movie or Limited-Series
American Crime
American Horror Story: Hotel
Flesh and Bone
Wolf Hall

Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Wagner Moura, Narcos
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Emma Donoghue, Room
Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, Spotlight
Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short
Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs
Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

Best Animated Feature Film
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Limited-Series, or TV Movie
Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Regina King, American Crime
Judith Light, Transparent
Maura Tierney, The Affair

Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy
Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex Girlfriend
Jamie Lee Curtis, Scream Queens
Julia Louis Dreyfus, Veep
Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin
Lilly Tomlin, Grace & Frankie

Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited-Series or TV Movie
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Damian Lewis, Wolf Hall
Ben Mendelson, Bloodline
Tobias Menzies, Outlander
Christian Slater, Mr. Robot

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Love Me Like You Do” 50 Shades of Grey
“One Kind of Love” Love and Mercy
“See You Again” Furious 7
“Simple Song No. 3” Youth
“Writing’s on the Wall” Spectre




Review: Trainwreck



DIR: Judd Apatow • WRI: Amy Schumer • PRO: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel • DOP: Jody Lee Lipes • ED: William Kerr, Peck Prior, Paul Zucker • DES: Kevin Thompson • MUS: Jon Brion • CAST: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson

Even if you’re not a fan, we’re all familiar with the bog-standard rom-com. Every year at least two sets of impossibly attractive Hollywood A-listers grin at us from buses and billboards. Those hetro couples standing back to back; perhaps she’s giving him a stern/disapproving look, while he shrugs/winks cheekily to camera. Oh, how she will fix him by act three. Trainwreck is a nice subversion of an overused trope.

What’s initially impressive about Trainwreck is the sheer weight of the marketing campaign behind it. Hot-as-s**t Amy Schumer and the accessible, popular Judd Apatow are both massive box -office draws. Unfortunately, what often happens with highly anticipated movies such as this, is the let-down. For example, we all thought Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was going to have more hilarious one-liners than it did. And The Phantom Menace. That is all. Just The Phantom Menace. Trainwreck certainly promised a lot; what could be more hilarious than a hot mess of a girl teamed with the nerdy, nice guy?

Shumer’s character, also an Amy, is an exaggerated version of her stand-up persona. Taught to avoid commitment at a young age by her philandering father, she spends her spare time boozing and meeting men. Amy’s forced to interview Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), an accomplished sports doctor, for the trashy magazine she works for – and finds herself more attached than she’d planned. I don’t blame her, the chemistry between Bill and Amy is ‘pulpable’. Bill’s performance is both relatable and absolutely adorable, while Amy’s shows an impressive range and depth we’ve not seen from her before. He works well with Amy’s comic timing It should also be noted that a good chunk of the film’s comedic highlights are delivered via the supporting roles of Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton, John Cena and LeBron James.

The difference between Trainwreck and most other Hollywood comedies is that the trailer and released clips do not contain every funny moment or plot point in the film. In fact, there’s a consistent vein of humour throughout, even in sombre moments. This is a perfect moment to pay tribute to a sex scene that is so awkward it would make Ricky Gervais cringe. However, ultimately the best thing about this film… and I’m going to pause as moments like this are so rare…  is that it delivers more than it promised. It’s surprisingly insightful, and features moments of emotional depth delivered by likeable, complex characters.


Gemma Creagh

16 (See IFCO for details)
124 minutes

Trainwreck is released 14th August 2015

Trainwreck – Official Website




Cinema Review: Short Term 12


Dir/Wri: Destin Cretton  Pro: Joshua Astrachen, Asher Goldstein, Ron Najor, Maren Olson  DOP: Brett Powlak  Ed: Nat Sanders  Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Rami Malek Stephanie Beatriz, Keith Stanfield, Kaithlyn Dever, Kevin Hernandez


Short Term 12, which has garnered ecstatic reviews stateside, follows Grace (Larsson), her co-worker and boyfriend Mason (Gallagher Jr.) and other co-workers as they go about their daily routine in a foster home facility for under-privileged children and teenagers. Nate (Rami Malek, last season in The Master) is starting his first day of work in the facility as the film begins and acts as an avatar for the audience to guide them into this world before quickly being moved firmly into the background in favour of an emphasis on Grace and Mason, and the troubled children, in particular Marcus (Keith Stanfield) and Jayden (Kaithlin Dever). We also get a glimpse of the impact this type of work has on Grace and Mason’s private life and their relationship.


Films such as these that deal with harrowing subject matter in a hopeful way are generally unquestionable in their good intentions yet also generally remind viewers of that old adage about the road to hell. Happily, this film sits well above the average film about underprivileged teens and the inspirational carers/teachers who inspire them, however faint that praise may be. This is down largely to some tremendous power-house performances. Larsson, Gallagher Jr, Malek and Beatriz are all good, but it is the younger performers – particularly the aforementioned Stanfield and Dever – that really stand out here.  The performances are helped by intimate direction from Cretton. All this adds up to some very poignant and genuinely moving individual scenes.


That is not to say that the film is not at home to manipulation. The scene in which Jayden tells Grace about her abusive father by way of a short story she has written about a shark and an octopus is certainly designed to pull at the heartstrings. However, when realised with such intensity, it is hard to disengage one’s emotions. It is an undeniably powerful scene, and one that rings true to the viewer, despite the faint whiff of manipulation that surrounds it. Marcus has a similar scene in which he relates the depth his problems, this time to Mason, through rap. Once again, on paper this scene sounds terribly manipulative and trite, but the direction and performers raise these sequences to a level, not quite of transcendence, but well, well above what one would expect.


Unfortunately the film as a whole fails to conjure up the same power that some of the individual moments do. There is something of a saccharine taste from the film when taken as an overall package.  While it is in places far grittier than most films of its kind, it still can’t shake the inevitable problems that arise from this type of subject matter. The problems in question are the mix of sentiment and grit that is necessary to explore such a topic that is sadly only too visible in everyday life. If one were to forego sentiment and hope altogether then an endeavour such as this would seem hopelessly nihilistic and pointless. Yet the ultimate emphasis on the positive-being the care these workers show the children and the hope that these children can still lead full, happy lives – as opposed to the negative aspects of childhood abuse and neglect can’t help but seem somewhat naive and undermines the power and the ferocity of some of the vignettes on show in this film. It also highlights the fact that despite all the things the film has in its favour it ultimately has little new to say on this topic.


As well as these concerns, the film unfortunately also very clearly slips into both melodrama and cliché towards the end of the film as Grace is forced to fight ‘The Man’ in her attempts to help Jayden. However, despite these flaws, the film is still worth seeing for the sheer emotional intensity of some of its scenes coupled with the potential for greater things that can be seen in Cretton’s direction and in the performances of Stanfield, Dever and the cast in general.


Sadly not the masterpiece some critics have hailed it has, but rather than it’s good intentions leading it to hell as most films of its kind, this one sits comfortably in limbo.

David Prendeville

15A (See IFCO for details)

97 mins

Short Term 12 is released on 1st November 2013

Short Term 12 – Official Website