- Colin Fraser
THREE AND A HALF STARS A genetics lab has created a plant with Prozac-like qualities. What could possibly go wrong? SCI-FI THRILLER UK #LITTLEJOE
Starring Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw
This creepy sci-fi yarn sits at the intersection of BLACK MIRROR’s über-hip social commentary and a 1970’s aesthetic thriller. it won’t be for all tastes - too dry for some, too slow for others - yet the muted tone of this curiosity will find its fans in those who revel in storytelling that relies on visual splendour as much as narrative dynamics.
In the near future, a genetics lab has created a plant whose perfume has a Prozac effect - if looked after properly, it makes people happy. Naturally there’s enormous potential in the eponymous species not only for good of humankind, but the good of the corporation’s bank balance. However Little Joe may not be as benign as first thought.
There’s a touch of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS in tis treat from writer/director Jessica Hausner. For a start, not everyone on the project is in awe of Little Joe but the warnings come too late. It treads the familiar line of man-plays-God-to-his-own-detriment and to be fair, this is not a wildly original take on the tale. However there are some thoughtful riffs on identity, perception and madness that keep us involved. They’re joined by the over-arching idea of what it means to be a parent when you’re forced to choose between your children. Again, familiar concepts.
Where LITTLE JOE wins its audience is in solid performances from Emily Beecham (CRUELLA), Ben Whishaw (SKYFALL) and Kerry Fox (TOP END WEDDING). Beecham picked up a Best Actress gong at Cannes for her effort. More than that is the distressing, off-kilter audio design and eye-catching production (see above re 1970’s aesthetic). It’s a terrific combination that emphasise our disquiet and add to the eerie qualities that settle over Hausner’s film like a sheen of malevolent pollen.
After an hour and half with LITTLE JOE you may never want to stop and smell flowers again. And with good reason.