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Room wins People's Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival


Story by Jack Foley

ROOM, a critically-acclaimed drama about a woman abducted, raped and trapped for years in a room with her son – whose father is their kidnapper – has won the top prize at the Toronto Film Festival.

The film, which world premiered the week before at Telluride, has thrust its star, Brie Larson, into awards contention as the woman at the centre of the story, as well as Jacob Tremblay, who plays five-year-old Jack.

Room marks Irish film-maker Abrahamson’s fifth film and is his follow-up to Frank.

In a statement read out at the ceremony, Abrahamson said he was “so honoured… and immensely proud” to have been recognised with the top award.

Both critics and audiences felt the film offered a gripping mix of thriller and small-scale domestic drama.

The first 45 minutes is set entirely within the confines of the room itself.

Room has been adapted from the novel by Emma Donoghue was inspired to write the novel after reading about the case of Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned and raped his daughter for 24 years in a basement in Austria. This resulted in seven children, three of which lived with their mother in captivity.

However, the filmmakers have distanced themselves from the real-life tale, saying they viewed their tale as more of a mother-son relationship than a thriller.

The People’s Choice Award in Toronto, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, has become known as a reliable indicator of which films will go on to enjoy awards success, with recent best picture winners such as Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and 12 Years a Slave all benefitting from an initial win in Canada.

The runners up this year were Angry Indian Goddesses, a drama set on the eve of one woman’s wedding in Goa, and Spotlight, Tom McCartney’s true-life tale of Boston Globe journalists who uncovered a paedophile ring in the Catholic church. The latter film stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.

Other winners at Toronto included Canadian filmmaker Alan Zweig, whose documentary Hurt tells the story of Steve Fonyo, a one-legged cancer survivor who raised $13m on a cross-country run in 1985, before his life went significantly downhill. He took home the $25,000 prize in the Platform sidebar, which was established this year to celebrate international auteurs.

Hardcore won the People’s Choice Award in the documentary category.