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 on Sunday the 40th Annual Toronto International Film Festival’s top prize — the Grolsch People’s Choice Award.
Both the 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.
Abrahamson (Frank, What Richard Did) told a news conference last week that he tried to stay away from the true story in making the movie.
The Irish director researched other cases.
“It’s amazing to look at some of these homecomings that are captured by news crews,” he said. “But for any really good piece of storytelling, it has to be about those specific characters. So we just stuck to the truth of the characters, and not to reference any true crime.”
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 — played by Jacob Tremblay.
Born in the three meter-by-three meter space, this is where Jack eats, sleeps and plays. For him, it’s 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. 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 Room 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, meanwhile, were 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 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 neighbors and street harassment in a frank depiction of contemporary Indian society.
Movie buyers flocked in record numbers to the Toronto film festival this year, with 2,100 bidding on nearly 400 feature and short films from 71 countries.
The distribution rights for 36 films were picked up, including sci-fi horror Hardcore that sold for a reported US$10 million.
Other big money makers included Anomalisa, Eye in the Sky, Forsaken, Into the Forest, Ma Ma, Mr Right, The Program and Sunset Song.
The new television series Trapped by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur was bought by the Weinstein Company.
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