A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jonathan is a drama with mild sci-fi elements about a young man (Ansel Elgort) who seems to share a life with someone who looks just like him, as suggested by daily video diaries. Expect infrequent swearing ("a--hole," "s--t") and evidence of a fistfight, as well as attempted suicide and the threat of suicide. Sex is discussed and suggested but not shown; ditto for drinking and an instance of drug use. The movie's themes deal with finding balance and the honesty required for relationships to thrive. Suki Waterhouse, Patricia Clarkson, and Matt Bomer (in a cameo) co-star.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In JONATHAN, a buttoned-down young man named Jonathan (Ansel Elgort) goes about his business with detached efficiency. He makes a video diary detailing his day, apparently for someone else's benefit, and goes to sleep at 3 p.m. When he wakes up each morning, he watches a video diary of someone who looks exactly like him detailing the second half of his day. Complications arise as it becomes more and more difficult for the two to co-exist.
Is it any good?
Beneath its sci-fi/mystery trappings, this is a very low-key (perhaps too low-key) psychological drama about metaphorically finding balance in life. Jonathan slowly unfolds with an intriguing premise, which won't be spoiled here, that involves something akin to multiple personalities. (It's not about disassociative identity disorder; that's simply a comparison, but to go into more detail would reveal secrets best experienced over the course of the film.) Suffice it to say that Elgort plays multiple roles, and both of the characters he plays struggle to toe the line. He's effective in one of the roles; the other, we simply don't see enough to know. The rest of the cast does just fine in smaller, less-considered roles: Suki Waterhouse as the love interest, Patricia Clarkson as a doctor who knows the secret, and Matt Bomer in a cameo as a private eye.
Unfortunately, the movie is slow paced, and the proceedings often feel heavy handed, especially due to the use of music. The film raises more questions than it answers, which the filmmakers might regard as a virtue. In this case, however, those questions have to do with the movie's logic rather than the truth of its situations. There are quite a few "Why?" moments, including the suddenness and unexplained nature of the final twist. Most importantly, you have to wonder: Why the secrecy in the first place? That quality, from which the entire film arises, seems unnecessary. Ultimately, Jonathan sometimes reveals its hidden details in effective ways, even as its nagging questions and often oppressive seriousness detract from its exploration of the story's themes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the underlying themes of Jonathan. What does the movie seem to be about, beneath the plot? Is it trying to teach viewers any kind of lesson?
Would you call this a sci-fi movie? A psychological drama? A thriller? Some combination? Why?
Did either main character behave more morally than the other?
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