John Lui Film Correspondent recommends

Film Picks: Room (PG13)

Room (PG13).
Room (PG13).PHOTOS: CATHAY-KERIS FILMS, SHAW ORGANISATION

ROOM (PG13)

118 minutes

4/5 stars

The story of a woman imprisoned as a sex slave should by normal reckoning, be nothing more than exploitation.

Room makes it work as serious, thought-provoking drama with the bonus of pitch-perfect performances from its leads, playing mother and son.

The film is distressing to watch, but it is never explicit. The cruelty fills each frame like an invisible gas.

Imprisoned in a tiny four-walled structure, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) cares for her son, five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the result of visits by her captor, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers).

Jack calls the only world he has ever known "Room". His mind refracts it into a million points of wonder.

To him, the space is not a prison, but a cocoon. Why should he care about leaving? This is Stockholm Syndrome, from birth.


FILMS OF THE SINGAPORE ART WEEK

The world's best art exhibitions are collected in the film series, Exhibition On Screen, which will be screened at The Projector at Golden Mile Tower in Beach Road.

Five documentaries, dealing with masterworks from Matisse, Rembrandt and The impressionists, among others, discuss the art and the world in which the artists lived.

In the State Of Motion programme, viewers will watch selected clips from films, such as Che Mamat Parang Tumpol (1960, above), made by Cathay-Keris studios in the 1950s and 1960s.

They will then board a bus that will take them to locations used in the films, where they can view a new site-specific art installation.

INFO: Tomorrow till Jan 24, various locations. For tickets and schedules, go to www.artweek.sg


LIFE (M18)

112 minutes

3.5/5 stars

The relationship between artist and subject is not a new topic for cinema, but here, the dynamic is given some retro glamour.

James Dean (Dane DeHaan, above) is a young actor, who in 1955, is being groomed for stardom; Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) is a photographer who will make the Life magazine shots that capture the actor's spirit and define cool for generations.

Director Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man, 2014; The American, 2010), known for his portraits of U2 and Joy Division, brings out great performances from both actors, especially DeHaan.


CAROL (R21)

119 minutes

4.5/5 stars

It is the early 1950s and New York shopgirl Therese (Rooney Mara, above, right) attends to customer Carol (Cate Blanchett, above, left). The pair strike up a friendship, one that will grow into something deeper.

In this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel, The Price Of Salt, director Todd Haynes and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy adopt a detached, almost clinical approach.

So, while you have the stares of longing, the sideways glances and the coded speech of the classic repression romance, Haynes also makes the actors speak and move deliberately, their formality matching the meticulous 1950s set design.

This touch of theatricality puts a focus on the isolation of Therese and Carol, who live in a world they cannot fully inhabit, much less relax in. It's a reminder that in 1950s America, their lives had to be performed, not lived.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'FilmPicks'. Print Edition | Subscribe