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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Am Jonas is a 2018 French coming-of-age drama in which a gay man in his 30s tries to come to grips with what happened to his first boyfriend 18 years ago. There are English subtitles. The flashback scenes are mostly set in 1997, and one of Jonas' classmates verbally bullies Jonas and Nathan (his first boyfriend), making oral sex gestures at them and hurling homophobic slurs. Nathan gets revenge on the bully by lacing his cigarette and causing the bully to soil himself in the middle of gym class. As an adult, Jonas engages in casual hookups on Grindr, binge-drinks, chain smokes, gets into fights at a nightclub, and gets arrested. In graphic detail, Nathan claims (later disproven) that the reason he has a scar on his face was because he was forced to perform oral sex on priests. Profanity is heard, including "f--k." Teen boys kiss in a gym.
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What's the story?
In I AM JONAS, Jonas has just been arrested for getting into a fight in a gay nightclub. When he goes home, his boyfriend breaks up with him, tired of Jonas' cheating and selfish behavior. As he tries to figure out what to do and where to go next, Jonas is continually haunted by his memories of 18 years ago, when he was starting ninth grade and met Nathan, whose free-spiritedness appealed to Jonas. Soon, Jonas realizes that he feels more than friendship for Nathan, and the two start dating. As Jonas reflects on these memories, he finds a way to connect with Nathan's younger brother Leonard. Leonard, suspicious that Jonas is stalking him, brings him back to his house for a party. When Jonas wakes up, he realizes he's in Nathan's bedroom, unchanged for 18 years. He reunites with Nathan's mother, and, with Leonard, who was too young to remember Nathan, Jonas tries to work through the terrible incident that ended his relationship with Nathan and led to Nathan's presumed death, and the pattern of self-sabotaging behavior that has resulted ever since.
Is it any good?
This film does a masterful job of commingling the past and present and reveals how a traumatic incident of the past can leave a lasting impact on one's behavior. The interweaving of Jonas' coming-of-age story of his first boyfriend with the emotional scars he still carries 18 years after the fact is flawless, effectively conveying the idea that the past is present and must be confronted and accepted. While set in the present and the 1997 of southern France, the story and its themes are accessible enough, no matter where viewers live or their sexual orientation.
What emerges in I Am Jonas is a character study of a self destructive man trying to make some kind of peace with the events that helped to propel this self-destruction. As Jonas, Felix Maritaud strikes the right nuanced tone of someone physically and emotionally hurting those around him as a way to vent his own inner turmoil. He's not the most likable character, but that's not the point. As the movie progresses, the empathy one feels for Jonas as an adult begins to be as strong as the bittersweet-ness revealed in the memories of his first love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coming-of-age movies. How does I Am Jonas compare to others you've seen?
What were some of the ways in which the movie showed the viewer that scenes were taking place in the 1990s, as opposed to the present day?
How does the movie explore Jonas' awareness of his sexual orientation, how he was treated by some in school as a result, and how the incident that led to the presumed death of his first boyfriend affects his behavior 18 years later?
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