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VIFF 2018: JONATHAN is Lo-fi Sci-fi at Its Best [Review]

By Marina Antunes [10.09.18]


Jonathan adheres to a strict schedule: up by 7AM, breakfast, run, work until noon and then home for dinner before going to bed at what seems like an ungodly early hour. It's a routine he adheres to as if his life depends on it and it sort of does because in addition to breakfast, Jonathan's mornings also include watching a video update of himself, giving a full rundown of what he was up to overnight.


Though the basic premise of Bill Oliver's feature film debut Jonathan is set-up early on, it's some time before the audience is made fully aware of the circumstances of Jonathan's reserved existence.


Instead, we follow the day-to-day of Jonathan and get glimpses, first solely on video and later in person, of John's night time life and its clear that the two couldn't be more different. Whereas Jonathan is career driven and dedicated to keeping to the schedule, John is more of a free spirit, a people person who values experience more than abiding by the rules.


The drama of Oliver's movie begins to manifest early on: clearly the two personalities can't continue to share the day as they have been and it's clear that one will have to win out but Oliver and co-writers Gregory Davis and Peter Nickowitz do a great job of keeping the dramatic tension on simmer for the movie's entire running time.



Jonathan is an excellent new entry into the "no budget, set-in-reality sci-fi movie" genre. Not only is the film's story well paced, Oliver has assembled a great team both in front and behind the camera.


Anson Elgort, best known for teen romances and Baby Driver, is excellent in the dual role of Jonathan and John while Patricia Clarkson and Suki Waterhouse provide great supporting performances. The cinematography from Zach Kuperstein makes a movie which unfolds in a very limited number of locations, many of them bland, full of beiges and greys, visually interesting while the editing from Tomas Vengris is used brilliantly to switch perspectives.


Jonathan is the complete package: a well-crafted story with great performances and execution but the script is the real gem of the show. Oliver, Davis and Nickowitz clearly worked through the script to weed out the bloating and what left is a lean piece of work where even the red herrings feel essential to our understanding of the story. This is definitely one to look out for.


Jonathan will be available in theatres and on demand on November 16.

Recommended Release: Split



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