Review: JONATHAN Is Overly Twisty Sci-Fi


Jonathan shows a lot of promise towards the beginning, but ultimately falls flat after it reveals its cards too early.
Technical Merit
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Jonathan is a new film directed by Bill Oliver and starring Ansel Elgort and Suki Waterhouse. The movie is about a man who leaves work everyday at noon, goes home and to bed, and wakes up the next morning with a video telling him about the other half of his day. It debuted at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival to a positive reception.

This film’s premise definitely has a lot of potential, and towards the beginning, it is quite intriguing. That being said, the mystery is revealed far too early. After the big twist is discovered, the movie no longer had its same allure. It began to feel slightly repetitive and tiresome.

Part of the film’s issue is that it doesn’t have a true antagonist. Instead, it opts to make its protagonist into a Byronic hero. Again, this works at first, but the internal conflict was not strong enough for this type of story to be compelling. Furthermore, the premise tries to turn the internal conflict into an external conflict and is largely unsuccessful.

jonathan elgort

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The movie also struggles in developing the characters in general. Jonathan is relatively sympathetic, but that is because he is the protagonist. John, on the other hand, is rather flat and not given enough development. Perhaps that is because none of the story is presented from his perspective. Supporting characters, such as Elena and Dr. Nariman, are even less developed.

Additionally, the film attempts to have some larger ethical implications, but these too fall flat. It is hard to truly evaluate the ethics of something as rooted in science-fiction as this. It is obvious that the script is trying to draw parallelisms between the premise and other issues that are important in our society today, but again, this is not communicated clearly enough.

jonathan elgort waterhouse

At times, the movie is somewhat entertaining to watch. It does begin to feel old after a while, and even though its runtime is only an hour and thirty-five minutes, it does feel much longer. The film lacks humor or thrills, instead focusing on character drama. Normally, this can still work, but not when the characters are so poorly-written.

That being said, Ansel Elgort’s performance absolutely makes the movie. He is great in both roles, delivering a nuanced and complex dual performance. His emotion is surprisingly genuine and he is also able to bring his signature charm to the role. His chemistry with the other actors is strong too, although they aren’t always at their best.

Overall, Jonathan was a disappointing film. It starts out strongly, but loses track when it has its big reveal. That being said, Ansel Elgort’s performance makes it worth checking out.

Jonathan is now in select theaters and on demand.


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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film; however, he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.
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