Kidnapping film Room wins top prize at Toronto festival

The cast of Room (from far left) Brie Larson, Jacob Trembley and Joan Allen at the premiere of the movie.
The cast of Room (from far left) Brie Larson, Jacob Trembley and Joan Allen at the premiere of the movie. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA • 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.

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 her five-yearold son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). He was 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.

Abrahamson did not attend the awards ceremony and issued a statement to thank Donoghue,“ whose beautiful novel started everything”.

Sean Bridgers plays Ma’s kidnapper Old Nick – and Jack’s father.The film also stars Joan Allen and William H. Macy.

Sunday’s prize puts it among possible early front runners for the Oscars.

Several past winners in Toronto went on to win Best Picture in the Academy Awards, including 12 Years A Slave (2013), The King’s Speech (2010) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

Runners-up for the Toronto People’s Choice Award, chosen by votes from 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 sex, careers, noisy neighbours and street harassment in a frank depiction of contemporary Indian society.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'Kidnapping film Room wins top prize at Toronto festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe