A kidnapped young woman is held captive and repeatedly raped for seven years, giving birth to a son after two. The small room that is their prison is the only world the little boy has ever known. When he turns five, desperation drives her to take action. In lesser hands, this could have been a lurid, true-crime drama, but it’s so much more.

I’m not going to tell you too much; this film is viewed best with no knowledge beforehand. But it’s about the nature of freedom and the lack of it, and the startling wonder of experiencing the world for the very first time.

Adapting Emma Donoghue’s acclaimed page-turner can’t have been easy, written as it is entirely from the viewpoint of a five year old. But director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), working from a screenplay by the author, telescopes and transforms the novel into an equally unique cinematic experience.

This tense and credible tale of survival is both harrowing and touching, gripping and beautiful, cathartic and provocative. It’s a poetic and profound film of many little wonders, an emotional roller coaster that is neither creepy nor sentimental.

Rising star Brie Larson took home the Best Actress Oscar this year for her role here (for my money she should have got one for 2013’s Short Term 12 as well). Matching her scene for scene is little Jacob Tremblay, who puts in an unforced performance on a level rarely seen in child actors. Veteran Joan Allen provides excellent support. (118 min)