Kidnapping tale Room takes top prize at Toronto film festival

Actors (from left) Jacob Tremblay, Brie Larson and Joan Allen attend the premiere for the film Room during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Sept 15, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.
Actors (from left) Jacob Tremblay, Brie Larson and Joan Allen attend the premiere for the film Room during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Sept 15, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. PHOTO: AFP

OTTAWA (AFP) - Irish director Lenny Abrahamson's adaptation of Emma Donoghue's novel Room, the horrific tale of a woman and son held captive for years in a tiny space, won the Toronto film festival's top prize on Sunday (Sept 20).

Both the Man Booker-shortlisted bestseller and the film were inspired by Elisabeth Fritzl, who endured 24 years of captivity in the basement of her family home in Austria, where she was repeatedly raped by her father and bore seven of his children. She escaped in 2008.

The film tells the story of a young woman and her child's escape from 10 years of captivity, as told through the eyes of five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), born in the 3m-by-3m space.

For him, it is home. But his "Ma" (Brie Larson) has a plan to escape.

The world beyond the room leaves the boy frightened and awestruck, while his mother has to whip up the courage to face it again. Sean Bridgers plays Ma's kidnapper Old Nick - and Jack's father.

Abrahamson, who did not attend the awards ceremony, issued a statement in which he thanked the Irish-born Donoghue,"whose beautiful novel started everything."

The film, which screened in Toronto after an auspicious Telluride premiere earlier this month, also stars William H. Macy and Joan Allen.

Sunday's prize puts it among possible early frontrunners for the Oscars.

Several past winners in Toronto went on to snag Best Picture Academy Awards, including 12 Years A Slave, The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire.

Runners up for the Toronto People's Choice Award, chosen by the votes of audience members, were American director Tom McCarthy's Spotlight, starring Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton in the true story about Boston Globe reporters who uncovered a massive child abuse scandal and cover-ups within the local Catholic Church, and Indian director Pan Nalin's Angry Indian Goddesses.

Promoted as India's first female buddy comedy, the film shows a group of women discussing careers, sex, noisy neighbours and street harassment in a frank depiction of contemporary Indian society.