Jonathan


You’re never alone when you’re a schizophrenic.

(2018) Science Fiction (Well Go USA) Ansel Elgort, Suki Waterhouse, Patricia Clarkson, Matt Bomer, Douglas Hodge, Souleymane Sy Savane, Shunori Ramanathan, Joe Egender, Ian Unterman, Alok Tewari, Jeff Kim, Alaska M. McFadden, Ramses Torres, Teo Rapp-Olsson, Julie Mickelson.  Directed by Bill Oliver

 

Most people have facets to their personalities. They aren’t just one thing; not just a party animal, not just a career person, not just a mama’s boy (or girl). We are most of us several different people whose varied personalities make up our one personality. What would it be like if the different personality traits turned out to be different and separate consciousnesses, battling one another for control?

That is the situation Jonathan (Elgort) is in. By day he is a ramrod-straight, obsessive draftsman for an architectural firm where he is just on the cusp of breaking into an important role. By night, he is a laid-back physical guy who drinks, hangs out with friends and is messy. Essentially, Jonathan and his other self John are twin brothers inhabiting the same body. They have been cared for nearly all their lives by the wise and maternal Dr. Mina Nariman (Clarkson) who often acts as a kind of mediator between the two brothers.

There are rules they must follow, mainly because they don’t want their secret discovered although to be honest I was never clear as to why they couldn’t let anybody know what they were going through. The boys each dictate a video diary which the other one reads when they “wake up” before recording their own diary when they go “to sleep.” That way, both brothers are prepared for the reactions neighbors and acquaintances might have for them.

The problems begin when John falls for a pretty barmaid/cocktail waitress named Elena (Waterhouse) and doesn’t tell Jonathan about it. When Jonathan finds clues that there’s something that may be going on, he hires a private investigator (Bomer) to figure out what’s going on. When he discovers the truth, he is furious and insists that John end the relationship. John refuses and so Jonathan takes it upon himself to do it for him by telling her the truth. She naturally thinks John is schizophrenic and breaks things up, which causes a rift between the brothers, a rift that only deepens when Jonathan finds himself falling in love with Elena himself.

The brothers’ 12 hour control “shifts” (John gets 7pm through 7am to be conscious, Jonathan from 7am to 7pm) is regulated by a doohickey which is where the science fiction element comes in. While this is set in a recognizable present day, the cold and sterile environs of the office Jonathan works in, the apartment he lives in, and the doctor’s office he visits weekly give an almost dystopian THX-1138 feel to the movie. In fact, the visuals are so antiseptic at times the movie feels nearly colorless and emotion-free. That’s a reflection of Jonathan’s cold and calculating personality, and it is through his eyes we primarily see the events of the movie.

Elgort has mainly been cast in teen heartthrob roles although from time to time he has shown glimpses of raw talent. This is his best performance – or performances – to date. The two twins are definitely separate personalities and Elgort looks comfortable and believable in both of them. Waterhouse has to react to both halves of the Jonathan whole and she does so admirably although fairly colorlessly. She isn’t given much personality to work with and mainly exists in the film as a fulcrum to spark the dissension between the two personalities.

For the most part the script is smart, refusing to take shortcuts and in fact nicely mapping out the rules of the world Jonathan exists in. Yes, there may be a sci-fi doohickey involved but it’s more of a MacGuffin than a focal point. That keeps the tech from getting too distracting.

This is definitely aimed at those who prefer thought-provoking science fiction over space operas. Critic Warren Cantrell of The Playlist even discusses the Freudian implications of the two separate Johns (you can read his analysis here) which is a fascinating interpretation and not wrong at all. As things start to break down for Jonathan, the color palate for the film grows more diverse – more food for thought.

In short (too late), this is a well-developed well-considered movie of the type we don’t get enough of these days. It’s a solid feature debut for Oliver and while some may find the sterility of Jonathan a bit off-putting, those who like to exercise their grey matter may find this film a decent workout.

REASONS TO GO: Elgort pulls off a difficult task. The script is intelligent and well-thought out.
REASONS TO STAY: Some may find this too sterile and intellectual.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a brief picture of blisters that may be a bit disturbing for the squeamish.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT:  This is the third time Elgort and Waterhouse have appeared together – they were also both in Insurgent and Billionaire Boys Club.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Amazon, Fandango Now, Fios, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/19/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 65% positive reviews. Metacritic: 62/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Daniel
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
See Know Evil

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Pick of the Litter – November 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald

(Warner Brothers) Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Johnny Depp. The J.K. Rowling Wizarding World series continues as the notorious criminal Geller Grindlewald escapes American custody and sets about gathering followers to his cause – to rule over those who are not magical. Albus Dumbledore steps forward to stand up to his tyranny and enlists the help of Newt Scamander as the world of wizards and witches becomes increasingly divided.  November 16

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Bodied

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 A Private War

(Aviron) Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Stanley Tucci, Faye Marsay. This movie is based on the exploits of Marie Colvin, one of the most decorated and respected war correspondents of our time. With her distinctive eye patch, she went into war zones that many journalists wouldn’t go into, citing them as too dangerous. She thought of herself as a voice for the voiceless, speaking out for those whose lives were ruined by war. November 2

 

The Other Side of the Wind

(Netflix) John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg, Lilli Palmer. Some movies make this list as much for what they represent as for their concept. This is the final film of Orson Welles, quite possibly the greatest film director of all time – certainly the director of arguably the best film of all time, Citizen Kane. Unfinished due to financial issues, the movie has been on the shelf for 40 years while the legal issues revolving around who owned the rights was resolved. Now, with post-production finally completed, Netflix is presenting this in limited release as well as on their streaming service as Huston plays an iconic director exiled from Hollywood who returns to make a movie that promises to be innovative. November 2

Postcards from London

(Strand) Harris Dickinson, Jonah Hauer-King, Alessandro Cimadamore, Leonardo Salerni. An extraordinarily handsome boy from a small town in England is lured to the bright lights and beauty of the fabled Soho district. Suffering from Stendahl’s Syndrome, he takes a highly unusual route into an escort service in this highly stylized film. November 9

 Jinn

(Orion) Simone Missick, Zoe Renee, Hisham Tawfiq, Kelvin Harrison Jr. A carefree young African-American girl is studying dancing and hopes to take it up as a vocation as her grandmother did before her. However, her life is turned upside down when her mother decides to convert to Islam and insists that her daughter convert with her. November 15

Jonathan

(Well Go USA) Ansel Elgort, Suki Waterhouse, Patricia Clarkson, Matt Bomer. Two brothers inhabit the same body, each living separate lives. They seem to be getting along, keeping their strange secret safe – until both of them develop an emotional attachment to the same girl. This film is equal parts science fiction and psychological thriller. November 16

Shoplifters

(Magnolia) Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sôsuke Ikematsu, Mayu Matsuoka. A family of crooks and con men take in a little girl from the streets. Soon they find themselves in trouble way above their heads. This festival favorite is Japan’s official submission for the 2019 Foreign Language Oscar and a favorite to make the short list. November 23

 If Beale Street Could Talk

(Annapurna) Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Aunjanue Ellis. In Harlem in the 1970s, a young woman is deeply in love and looking forward to having her fiancé’s baby, despite some conflict with her devout mother. When her intended is jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, she sets out to prove his innocence regardless of her delicate condition. Based on a novel by the great James Baldwin, this is Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to the movie that won him the statue Moonlight.. November 30