King Jack

 

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New York State is the setting for a portrait of contemporary adolescence distinguished by 

its authenticity.

 
This is the first feature film to be made by Felix Thompson and he shows a remarkable assurance using the ’Scope format with aplomb. That’s so whether it be to draw us in through close-ups or to make us aware of a figure in a setting. In addition he shows his skills as a writer by creating an extremely authentic view of adolescence today as experienced in a small American town. His two central characters, admirably realised and played to perfection, are 15-year-old Jack (Charlie Plummer) and his 12-year-old cousin Ben (Cory Nichols).

 

King Jack

Summer strife: Charlie Plummer and Cory Nichols

 

Thompson wants us to sympathise with both boys but never manipulates us or sentimentalises his characterisations – Jack, for example, is shown as a difficult youth who is initially hostile to his visiting cousin. Jack’s father is long absent and the boy lives with his rather naive, uncomprehending mother (the film’s least well drawn figure) and an older brother who has cause to resent him. If Jack’s interest in girls finds him sexting Robyn, the unworthy focus of his affections, he remains less aware of another girl’s interest in him. However this is a world in which all the youngsters are knowing about sex and Jack’s real secret is that he has never kissed a girl. But looming over all this is the fact that Jack has become a victim of the school bully (Danny Flaherty) who also turns his attentions to Ben.

 

The wider picture is persuasive and that includes what we come to learn of Jack’s back history, but the bullying, often brutally illustrated, is central. It’s slightly worrying that the film offers no solution other than to meet violence with violence. That issue apart, this is an impressive film until late on. Given the harsh but very credible character of the piece, it comes as a shock when it winds up by presenting us with a happy ending. The film here becomes sentimental for the first time and this conclusion is at odds with the tone of all that has preceded it. That’s a pity, but it doesn’t alter the fact that Thompson, Plummer and Nichols are all names to be noted.

MANSEL STIMPSON

  

Cast: Charlie Plummer, Cory Nichols, Danny Flaherty, Christian Madsen, Erin Davie, Yainis Ynoa, Scarlet Lizbeth, Chloe Levine.

 

Dir and Screenplay Felix Thompson, Pro Gabrielle Nadig and Dominic Buchanan, Ph Brandon Roots, Pro Des Emmeline Wilks-Dupoise, Ed Paul Penczner, Music Bryan Senti, Costumes Jami Villiers.

 

Whitewater Films/ Ropagani/Stink/a Buffalo Picture House production etc.-Vertigo Films.
80 mins. USA/UK. 2015. Rel: 26 February 2016. Cert. 15.