A Welsh teenager will become the cool kid of the town if a deal is made with his new American neighbour.
Genre : Comedy/Drama/Thriller
Country : UK
Craig Roberts : Jim
Emile Hirsch : Dean
Mark Lewis Jones : Donald
Director : Craig Roberts
“Do you believe in God?
I think if he exists, he needs to give me a break.
Maybe you just need to man up a bit, instead of being a little bitch.”
A surprising film and quite different than I expected. I thought it would be a film about a bullied, dorky, funny looking boy who learns to defend himself against the merciless bullies with the help of a new neighbor. Partly this is true. Jim (Craig Roberts) is an outsider everyone hates and who also has some bizarre habits. An introverted, insecure teenager and victim of teasing and mockery. Even his parents aren’t exactly supporting him. The total isolation of Jim is portrayed in a visually stunning way. Sometimes you feel sad about it all. Certainly when his own dog leaves him behind. But mostly the images are pretty hilarious. The garden gate that falls down. Jim watching at his race track apathetically with two remote controls in his hands. A birthday party organized by his parents with a large banner. Naturally the specified age is wrong. And then it swirls down in a “Jurassic Park” kind of way, while he’s sitting there pathetic on his own.
This all seems to be changing, the day the neighbor Dean (Emile Hirsch) moves into the adjacent house. An American James Dean clone who quickly manages to gain the trust of Jim. Dean tries to boost Jim’s confidence by giving him advice on how to put his life back on track and take matters into his own hands. As Jim’s confidence grows, Dean’s behavior begins to take bizarre and aggressive forms. The way he imposes himself on Jim’s parents (especially the coquettish mother) isn’t exactly kosher. The rebellion side of Dean’s ego starts to revolt against Jim, who slowly begins to wonder whether this American guardian angel is reliable or not.
The first surprise about this film is that 24-year-old Craig directed and wrote the film. A not inconsiderable feat for such a young individual. Notwithstanding that there are some weak elements in this film, which might be annoying, the end result isn’t so bad. What struck me the most were the beautiful fragments and stylistic camera setups. If you’d take single snapshots of the patchy-ranging situations, you could start an exhibition of surrealistic, experimental photography. That’s at the same time something many could make a comment about. The entire movie seems like a fusion of several film experiments, which makes it sometimes confusing and complicated. But are you a David Lynch fan (and to a lesser extent you can add Refn) then you’ll definitely appreciate it.
There’s one thing that intrigued me. Was this a story with a double meaning? Was Dean a real person or was he just a fantasy Jim imagined because of his psychologically tormented personality? In hindsight it appears as if the whole movie is occupied by individuals with a mental illness. The crazy ex-soldier (I guess he’s off his head in a way) Jim always encounters when walking the dog ( “Yeah, copy that, Clive“). A bizarre responding guard at the local cinema (a typical “Twin Peaks” character). Then there is psychotic Dean. The unworldly and apathetic parents of Jim. And finally the skeptical and introverted lead character. Could Dean be a metaphorical appearance? A way to portray the rebellious Jim, whose true and jovial personality is fighting back in the end? Or is Jim really an outsider who’s just attempting to conquer a place in society? The sometimes hallucinatory and confusing images (such as the underwater moments) didn’t help me to draw a final conclusion.
“Just Jim” isn’t exactly a commercially oriented film and certainly won’t be well received by many. It’s sinister, absurd and does give you sometimes an uncomfortable and voyeuristic feeling. The film manages to mix together a depressing and at the same time a humorous atmosphere. Perhaps it sometimes tends to degenerate into an art-house experimental film. But overall it was a pleasant and surprising experience.