The science fiction film Jonathan plays like a lost Black Mirror episode

Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief reviews on festival films, VR previews and other special event launches. This criticism comes from the Tribeca Film Festival 2018.

The idea of ​​two conflicting personalities that share a single body is one of those tropes rich in metaphors that writers tend to love. There were many radically different ideas about the idea, from the pop drama of Fight Club to the comedy of All Of Me to decades of various stories about the Incredible Hulk. Ultimately, all the stories in this sense owe some loyalty to the Robert Louis Stevenson novel of 1886 The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . But even further back, the stories of sharing the body have their roots in a fundamental human discomfort with our worst choices.

That is the symbolism with which the subgenre plays: the alternately consoling and frightening idea that perhaps is the most self-destructive or inexplicable actions are the fault of another person. That maybe not only is there a bad angel whispering breath into our ears, there are real gremlins in our heads, taking control and making us say or do something that our best selves would never do, even if we ended up having the blame. 19659004] Like so many other stories to share the body, Bill Oliver Jonathan experiments with that idea, with the disturbing feeling that someone else lives inside him, someone whose goals and desires do not match his own. But Oliver's version has a different twist, a basic element that changes the narrative. Jonathan is a science fiction story about two men who share a body, stabilized by an experimental device of deep brain stimulation and living in a comfortable balance between them. At least until one of them wants more than he already has, which sends the story in a direction that would not be out of place in Black Mirror .

What is the genre? [19659006] High-concept indie sci-fi drama. At the premiere of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival 2018, the novice director Bill Oliver said he could have turned the film into a multiple-personality drama from the real world, but that he wanted it in a more fantastic setting, with more than an Air of Charlie Kaufman. Beyond a certain point, science does not really matter; it could easily be the kind of magical-realistic plot that produced stories like Ruby Sparks or Prelude to a Kiss . But by intentionally adding an element of science to the story, Oliver and the co-authors Gregory Davis and Peter Nickowitz deliberately avoid any interpretation that everything that happens here is just a psychological presumption. The protagonists are not mentally ill, they are dealing with a completely different medical condition. And the lack of ambiguity or interpretation about his condition helps to propel his story in an equally unequivocal direction.

What is it about?

Jonathan ( Baby Driver & # 39; s Ansel Elgort) is a part time timer in his own body. Every day, he wakes up exactly at 7 a. M., Works half a day as a draftsman in a prestigious architectural firm and sleeps at 3 p. M exactly during four hours of sleep. The other 12 hours a day, your body belongs to John, a temporary worker at a local law firm. They have separate beds and separate hobbies, but they share an apartment and try to create a sense of continuity for each other. Every day, video messages are left for each one, with updates on where they went and who they talked to, so if Jonathan meets a neighbor John spoke with, or vice versa, they can continue pretending they are a person normal. Jonathan is rigid, precise and fussy, while John has a more relaxed personality. But they share responsibility at home as diligent and organized roommates, and record in their daily records what bills should be paid, what purchases should be made, who gets to wash clothes, and so on.

Then Jonathan discovers that John has been secretly seeing a woman named Elena (Suki Waterhouse, star of Ana Lily Amirpour The Bad Batch ). The idea that John has been breaking the routine, keeping secrets and ignoring his carefully established rules, sends Jonathan to the repressed version of a frenzy, and he takes invasive measures to control the situation. Events skyrocket from there. The revelations about who they are for each other and why they share a body arrive early in the film, but they are still better discovered on the screen, and so are the next steps, since two men who can never be seen face to face face the face still tries to face face to face.


What is it really about?

Loss of control, especially in relationships. For Jonathan, the shared-body condition is manageable as long as both men comply with their strict regulations on where they can go and what they can do. But it's easy to see how stupid your lifestyle is for someone who does not share your obsessive need for predictability and order. At the same time, both men are in a bind because they are in the last intimate relationship: if John decides to stay out all night or get drunk, Jonathan has to deal with fatigue and hangover too. Neither is free to allow a youthful indiscretion or a momentary judgment failure without dragging the other.

In that sense, Jonathan deals with the dangers of sharing a life with another person – how to trust someone enough to allow them to enter your life is a daring and possibly reckless act. But it is also about loving other people enough to accept their needs as real, and of equal value.

Is it good?

In the final act, Oliver and company betray their premise a bit by presenting a new out of-a development that changes the rules of the story and removes much of the important action from the hands of the protagonists. That subplot turns an open world about emotional choices and consequences into a predictable journey along some straight-lane tracks to an obvious end. It is an annoying deceleration for what would otherwise be a winning and surprising film built around the mutual dependence of John and Jonathan and mutual frustration. From the beginning, it is clear that their situation is not defensible: no matter how regulated and functional it may seem, it is not a way of life for anyone. But until that turn comes, history has a tremendous momentum, as the conflict intensifies in places that no man actively wants.

Filmmakers make an interesting choice from the start: the public only sees Jonathan's perspective on the events, which makes John as opaque to the public as it is for Jonathan. When you are leaving detailed videos of your day for Jonathan, it is an open book. When it stops, it suddenly becomes a void, a complete absence in the narrative that only fills when the consequences of the things he does become apparent to Jonathan. The approach creates a narrative problem, since John is not as real to the public as Jonathan. But at the same time, John is the one who can identify and wants a girlfriend and a normal life. And he is the one who has reached the worst end of the deal, living from sunset to sunrise like a vampire, rarely seeing the sun except briefly in summer. Seeing that Jonathan cares about the laundry and his bed routine as a kind of remote control of Felix Ungar, it is easy to sympathize with him, even without being seen.

John's unenviable situation raises many questions, and it's surprising that the script does not even touch them. The scientific side of John and Jonathan's relationship is driven by pioneering Dr. Mina Nariman (Patricia Clarkson, strong as ever), who developed the brain stimulation device that manages John and Jonathan's time. (It is based on real-life implants used to treat a variety of neurological dysfunctions). And it also acts as a sort of supportive arbiter between them, halfway between a psychiatrist who helps his patients interpret relationships and a mother scolding their children for fighting. However, it is strange how little the script gives you from a technical point of view, as things fall apart. Oliver and the other writers never address, for example, whether it is possible for Jonathan and John to temporarily exchange time slots, or give up time between themselves to solve ongoing problems, such as Jonathan's inability to take a promising promotion at work, or John is eternally locked away from the sun.

But that's because Jonathan focuses more on the emotional fence between the two men, and on the corporal horror of being hostage to each other, than on the other the technical or science fiction side of your scenario. And in that sense, Jonathan is both a memorable movie and a creative twist in a relationship drama. Unfortunately Elena misses the story because during all her time on the screen, she is never more than a ruse of the plot. Even Dr. Nariman makes some unjustifiable decisions along the way, and the film stops before defining it enough to explain the things he does. The real story is about the Johns, about the corporal autonomy, about the acceptance of the rights of other people and about how easy it is to fight with people while still loving them and needing them.

Jonathan ends up feeling like a hybrid of Fight Club and Charlie Kaufman, with the central confrontation of the former and the tenderness and humanity of the latter. At the same time, Jonathan does not rise completely to Strengard, fighting forces of Fight Club and is never as indecipherably strange as a Kaufman story. And in the end, it does not seem that Jonathan is completely committed to his own premise. For better or for worse, Kaufman and David Fincher are creators who cling to an idea and carry it as far as it can go. Jonathan instead activates the brakes just when it is at its most dangerous point. It feels a bit like Oliver and his collaborators did not want to listen to their inner gremlins, pushing them out of their safe zone and into some darker and unknown place.

What should be qualified?

PG -13 for some mild violence and sexual content, but mostly for being too Charlie Kaufman-esque for young children.

How can I really see it?

Jonathan is currently looking for distribution.

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