Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort plays the title character in Bill Oliver’s Jonathan, a sci-fi tale that benefits from its modesty yet is hampered by its lack of ambition.
Jonathan has duel personalities that are cogent enough to exist on their own in the same body. His more regimented persona takes over for the day, allowing Jonathan to maintain a part-time job and daily routines but holding him back from having any long-term career aspirations. When he goes to bed at 7:00, an extroverted psyche takes over and accesses a sociable nightlife. These “shifts” have been a part of Jonathan’s livelihood since he was born, and has been measured and moderated by a professional (Patricia Clarkson), but recent complications involving a romantic relationship with a local waitress (Suki Waterhouse) creates a tense overlap that will disrupt the individuality of Jonathan’s lives.
Jonathan is perfectly fine sci-fi fodder that should be played as a low-key thriller. Unfortunately, director Bill Oliver (in his feature-length debut) reveals his cards too early and flips the film into more of dramatic actor’s piece – trading tension for melodrama. That could be a plausible approach, except Oliver dresses his film up as science fiction yet wants to distance it from anything that would attribute his film with a fantasy. Jonathan is a film that embraces its small-scale, and gives the tight cast a chance to flex their acting expertise in a story that’s out of their own element. But, with every choice Oliver is given to push the film into a more interesting, stake-raising direction, he opts for a decision that stifles the potential and isolates the film from growth.
If these are the types of movies Bill Oliver wants to continue making, I highly suggest that he watches Jamison M. LoCascio’s Sunset before he makes his next film.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie