Josie & Jack
Television actress Sarah Lancaster makes her directorial debut with slow-burn drama Josie & Jack. Adapted from Kelly Braffet’s 2005 novel of the same name, we follow the unusual lives of the titular characters – a brother and sister who only have each other to depend on. After the death of their mother, the siblings are home-schooled by their tormenting and tyrannical father. With reality removed for much of their lives, the two finally become aware of the world outside their decaying home.
Armed with scientific knowledge but devoid of morals, Josie and Jack are severely lacking in compassion, and view the world through a distorted and damaged lens. This makes for an interesting idea, but by having two flawed characters to follow, the viewer is never able to fully relate or invest ourselves in them. One might understand why they are the way they are, but beyond circumstance there is not enough depth to make the audience genuinely care. Fortunately, the acting elevates a mundane script.
William Fichtner is well cast as the controlling father. The actor works with what he’s given but it would have been interesting to delve deeper into exactly why the character is so twisted. His scenes are urgent and engaging and it’s a shame there aren’t more of them. Olivia DeJonge conveys her character’s complexity in her multi-layered portrayal of Josie and establishes a believable rapport with her on screen brother. Alex Neustaedter also delivers as Jack, embodying a multitude of personality traits ranging from obsessive love to an unnerving need for control.
Mike Simpson’s cinematography impresses but Lancaster largely plays it safe, relying on conventions of the genre without ever pushing boundaries. Certain moments could have undoubtedly been heightened to increase their impact, but instead the narrative drifts, seemingly aimlessly at times, through a stilted and sedate 103 minutes. Novels have the luxury of employing excessive description to draw in their reader; Lancaster devotes so much time to set-up, forgetting that film has the power to deliver information at a much faster tempo.
Movies should offer escapist entertainment or have something to say – preferably both. Josie & Jack, alas, lacks either. The film is severely lacking in pace and fails to utilise the medium’s potential. Much like the lives of its characters, it feels routine, repetitive and lost.
Josie & Jack is released on Amazon Prime Video on 22nd March 2021.
Watch the trailer for Josie & Jack here: