Little Joe - Film Review

Little Joe - Film Review


Posted 2021-06-29 by Jenfollow

Little Joe is directed by Austrian director Jessica Hausner and stars Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox and Kit Connor. With a run time of 105 minutes, it'll screen at select cinemas on 1 July 2021 - Cinema Nova, Melbourne; Dendy Newtown, Sydney; Dendy Canberra, Canberra; and Five Star Cinemas, New Farm - Brisbane.

The film is about Alice (Emily Beecham), a single mother and a dedicated senior plant breeder at a corporation engaged in developing new species. She has engineered a very special crimson flower, remarkable not only for its beauty but also for its therapeutic value: if kept at the ideal temperature, fed properly and spoken to regularly, this plant makes its owner happy. Against company policy, Alice takes one home as a gift for her teenage son, Joe (Kit Connor). They christen it 'Little Joe' but as it grows, so too does Alice's suspicion that her new creations may not be as harmless as its nickname suggests.

At work, Alice's colleague Bella (Kerry Fox) has concerns about the new species after her dog gets locked in with the plants and comes out with a personality she doesn't recognise. However, she's painted as someone who is not mentally stable and no one takes notice of her. She asks Alice if her assistant, Chris (Ben Whishaw) has also inhaled the pollen. Is he acting differently now? This alerts Alice more towards her son's behaviour which has also become more insolent and distant towards her. Is it a rush of teenage hormones or is he too infected by Little Joe? Unless you're really looking for it, the infection can be undetectable, which makes it difficult to pinpoint.

Considering most of the film takes place within the confines of brick and mortar, it manages to touch on the edge of something eerie going on. The creepy slower pace of movement, speech, the colour palette that harks to an artificial world, the soundtrack (music written by Japanese composer Teiji Ito) that draws you in and pushes you back at the same time - all build up the unsettling feeling of something scary happening, keeping you on tenterhooks, questioning everything. It has you guessing whether it's the psychological state of mind of the individual or is it the plant? The ambiguity of the scenes allows several interpretations.

Emily Beecham is brilliantly awkward and emotionally detached as the botanist and single mum with red hair that mirrors the hue of the titular plant she conceives. She won the Award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 for her role. You can't help but think Stepford Wives. This is a quirky little film about the pursuit for happiness but never really ventures anywhere near full horror.

It steadily builds to but goes nowhere, resulting in a collective shrug. This diluted sense of menace would have been completely dull were it not for its strong lead actress. Like a lot of modern horror films, what makes Little Joe horrifying is how it's entirely feasible, that it's a situation that could be.

84102 - 2023-06-11 06:49:54


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