Published at: Jan. 22, 2007, 8:50 p.m. CST by headgeek
I just walked out on a movie to get caught up on writing, the movie wasn’t even that bad too I just don’t see how else I’m going to be able to get anything done this festival as our schedules are very tight and I haven’t mastered the art of farting out a review in any location at any time in under twenty minutes like the seaman has. I wish I had that talent. When I started writing this review Joshua had just screened and blew my mind, since then it has been sold to Fox Searchlight and is going to be released later this year which is quite awesome as I thought it was going to be too quirky for a major company to pick-up.
Joshua – Written and Directed by George Ratliff
I didn’t know what to expect out of Joshua, the description and photo felt like it could be a boring family drama, but I’m a big fan of Vera Farmiga and Sam Rockwell so I didn’t want to miss out on seeing it. Also George Ratliff’s first film Hell House was a work of genius, but documentary filmmakers don’t always translate as well to narrative filmmaking. Nonetheless Ratliff also has a close-connection to Austin, so I had to see the movie while I was here or I’d lose my Austin street cred.
The film opens with the birth of a new baby girl to two proud young parents Brad and Abby Cairn (Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga), their seven year old son, Joshua, watches from another room as they smile and make faces at their new little baby. Joshua naturally starts to feel jealous as the baby becomes the center of attention. One night Abby and Brad start hearing some strange noises on the baby monitor followed by crying. They rush in and try to calm the baby down, but get into a small fight. Brad notices that Joshua is up in his room and talks to him, this is where the first creepy bit comes across as right before his dad leaves Joshua tells him “You know, it’s okay if you don’t love me anymore.” His dad reassures him that he loves him a lot.
From there the film goes batshit insane, it’s a total horror film in the vein of The Omen, but without the supernatural elements, it’s all very realistic and plausible. Not to spoil too much, but you should expect to see many poisoned animals, parents being driven to the point of insanity, and many attempts at killing a baby. This is the film to show your wife or girlfriend if you want to convince her to never have children. It’s frightening as all hell, but also a wonderful drama about a child feeling neglected and dealing with it in the most evil bizarre way.
At a certain point of the film it just become a battle of wits with Joshua fighting his dad and at that point its riding the line between bizarre black comedy and great horror, I love love LOVED it. The kid playing Joshua is pitch-perfect and is creepier than any kid in any horror film produced in the past ten years. At one point Joshua practices Egyptian Embalming techniques on his teddy-bear, talking about bringing organs out of the nose and ripping out the cotton on the inside of the bear, the scene couldn’t have been done better, it’s so clever and awesome.
Vera Farmiga gives a standout performance as a mother being pushed to the limits of insanity, very much reminiscent of Ellen Burstyn from Requiem for a Dream at times. Vera in the middle of the film is almost unrecognizable from the woman that begins in it. Sam Rockwell is great in this film, but it’s the script that really shines and he is so wonderful facing off with his own son. The film also has a wonderful supporting cast including Michael Mckean as Brad’s asshole of a boss and Dallas Roberts as a friend of the family that they call on in times of need.
The film was shot by Benoit Debie (Irreversible), he suits the quirky tone and dark atmosphere perfectly. While not as technically amazing as Irreversible it’s camera-work complements the story. George Ratliff has made a kick-ass film that is a narrative debut to be quite proud of, equally as good as Hell House and more accessible in every way. Fox Searchlight has picked this one up, and it has the chance to be a commercial hit while also being a strong film dramatically that could cross-over to a best director award next fall depending on the season’s releases.
Overall probably the most enjoyable film at Sundance this year.
Wanna buy me lunch in Park City?