Director: Josh Mond
18, 84 mins, 29 February UK (VOD/DVD release)
Out now on VOD and DVD, James White is the debut film of writer/director Josh Mond, who was the producer of Simon Killer and Martha Marcy May Marlene. That is not a bad filmmaking pedigree, and James White bears a great of similarity in fact to Simon Killer, in that this film also takes the POV of an edgy, unstable male protagonist who tests the audience’s sympathies. Mond’s film originally premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and took home the Sundance Next Audience Award, so we are sure to be hearing more from him.
The plot does whiff of a certain cliched “Sundance-ish” formula: a troubled twenty-something New Yorker called James White struggles to stay afloat over a period of several months as his mother deteriorates from cancer, with the camera staying glued to his perspective exclusively. Fraught middle-class white people with dramas captured by handheld cameras populate more than their fair share of Sundance breakouts for sure. But compelling turns from stars Christopher Abbott and Cynthia Nixon and a refreshing refusal by the filmmakers to sugarcoat the tragic decline of James’s mother – who looks set to die before any of her dreams for her son are achieved – and James himself (he really is a self-absorbed, hedonistic asshole with a violent streak) ultimately make for a satisfyingly affecting and unsettling watch.