Little Joe (2019)

Little Joe
Director: Jessica Hausner
Writer: Géraldine Bajard, Jessica Hausner
Cast: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, Kit Connor, Lindsay Duncan
Seen on: 5.12.2020

Alice (Emily Beecham) is a botanist working on creating the perfect plant – a plant especially designed to make everyone happy who smells it. It appears that her attempts have been met with success and Alice decides to take one of the plants home against company policy. She presents it to her son Joe (Kit Connor) as a gift and calls it Little Joe. But the longer Alice deals with the plant and sees the effect it has on Joe, the more worried she becomes.

Little Joe is stylistically interesting, but everything else is a drag that quickly turns boring. I really wanted to like the film much more than I did.

The filmposter showing Alice (Emily Beecham) and Chris (Ben Whishaw) stadning in a laboratory full of red flowers.

Much like with Amour fou, I struggled with Little Joe. It has so many things that could make it interesting and somehow, none of them worked for me. So in the end, I was actually so disinterested in the film that I fell asleep shortly before the ending. I don’t feel like I missed much.

Aesthetically, the film is fascinating. Its sets have a lot of white with bold red and soft green to contrast, making it intriguing to look at. The acting is equally irritating: its stiff, dispassionate, almost flat. This delivery in combination with the slightly weird and definitely emotional story should have been enough to get tension from the irritation. But unfortunately, for me the effect was boredom.

Alice (Emily Beecham) working at a lab instrument.

Maybe also because I know my fair share of horror and science fiction and Little Joe feels like a horror sci-fi film for people who don’t usually watch it. So it uses some older tropes that just lost their effect for somebody who has seen them repeated a couple of times, but that probably still work very well if you aren’t used to them.

Anyhow, I just didn’t connect with the film. I wish it had been different, if only because I really liked Little Joe’s design, Emily Beecham’s hair-cut and Whishaw’s unusual role. But that wasn’t enough, unfortunately.

Alice (Emily Beecham) and Chris (Ben Whishaw)  standing between rows of flowers not yet in bloom.

Summarizing: didn’t work for me.

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