Craig Roberts’ directorial debut, set in small-town Wales
Twenty-four year old Craig Roberts makes his directorial debut with Just Jim, a tale of suburban boredom, teenage cruelty, and insanity. Imitating some of the styles of Richard Ayoade’s Submarine (also starring Roberts) and The Double, the film is an original, but confused effort.
Jim (Craig Roberts) lives in small-town Wales and is socially alienated from his classmates, who think him odd and uncool. His attempts to fit in catastrophically fail, leading to some painful – and humorous – moments. What’s more, his crush on rebellious Jackie (Charlotte Randall) seems hopeless. Trapped a in a grim and horribly decorated house with his parents, it’s no wonder that he is depressed. There’s a sense of odd timelessness in this dreary suburbia – Jim’s mother and sister seem be dressed in clothes from the sixties, the videogames he plays are from the nineties – and nothing looks like it ever changes.
Things do change, however, with the appearance of Dean (Emile Hirsch), his new American neighbour. Hirsch steals all the scenes he is in – a breath of fresh air in a stultified town; the epitome of American energy and charm. Quickly becoming Jim’s friend, he orchestrates his social rise – until his sinister side is revealed.
Just Jim’s direction is original. Its grim settings and odd timelessness forge a claustrophobic atmosphere. However, some of its stylistic flourishes are overused. Shooting scenes lit through window blinds, for example, or a flick of the camera when a character lights a cigarette – as well as a litany of underwater dream-sequences.
Its key failing, however, is that the mysterious and over-intricate plot doesn’t pay off. At the end, none of the story makes much sense and this is frustrating for an audience asked to endure one grim scene after the next, with little relief.
Just Jim is an intriguing debut, but more so for its direction than storytelling. Hirsch is chilling as Dean, delivering a strong performance. It’s rather a pity that the plot is nonsensical.
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