By: Addison Wylie
After accumulating directorial experience with shorts films and serving as a producer on critically acclaimed indies such as Simon Killer and Martha Marcy May Marlene, Josh Mond has taken the leap to feature films with James White. A film that will convince you that Mond has been in this business longer than his back catalogue suggests.
James White is a stellar picture and every piece that holds it together has a remarkable impact. However, first of all, I want to focus on Mátyás Erdély’s cinematography. It’s a standout component because of how well Erdély can set a scene and how quickly he’s able to take us inside the head of the film’s agitated, unstable lead (James played by Christopher Abbott of HBO’s Girls).
The film is locked-on to James. He’s a self-absorbed loose canon with volatile patience. He’s consistently in focus while others around him remain fuzzy or muffled because he’s tuning everyone else out. When his mother Gail (played by Cynthia Nixon) is grieving or dealing with new symptoms brought on by her cancer, she occasionally appears just to be drowned out again. As the film rolls along, we see James has a hard time accepting responsibilities, which in turn, eggs on frustration. He also realizes how important his friendships are with his best pal Nick (played by Scott Mescudi) and his latest fling (played by Makenzie Leigh). When life “happens” and he’s feeling stranded, he struggles with himself to keep his cool while voicing his concerns with his inability to process tragedy. We witness James learn how to mature the hard way.
People have described James White as a tough movie to bear. I agree, but the feeling to resist is only created because of how real everything feels. Abbott is engaging while giving off provoking sensations through his unpredictable sensitivity. Nixon is exceptional as an ailing fighter who is also struggling with her own handicaps. Scenes during the last third between Gail and James are especially harrowing as they help each other return to a mild reality.
James White isn’t exactly a film you return to right away, but it sticks with you. Hopefully, the same consideration occurs with award voters during this year’s final stretch.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie