This offering from Upstream is Bill Oliver‘s Jonathan. Written (along with his two long time writing partners, Greg Davis & Peter Nickowitz) and directed by Oliver, it is his first full length feature. Jonathan is the story of two people who share the same body. It is never elaborated upon whether this is some alternative medical issue or a matter of a break down in the psyche of the subject. The film is a study in subtlety, in script, performance, and even cinematography & set design.
I generally enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but I can see some people feeling it was either a bit slow or not enough happened to keep them engaged. For me, Ansel Elgort‘s (Baby Driver) fantastic portrayal of Jonathan/John carried the entire film. However there were very notable performances by veteran actress Patricia Clarkson (Green Mile, Maze Runner, and Six Feet Under) and Suki Waterhouse (Pusher, Detective Pikachu). There was almost as much story implied as there was explained. You are left to fill in a lot of the blanks but it never feels like there is anything missing from the story. For example we see the story almost exclusively from the view of Jonathan, the more conservative and quiet of the two personalities inhabiting the same body. His apartment is spartan, clean, and with everything in it’s place. You readily see the contrast in John who’s impact on their lives is more often depicted as unclean laundry left out or dishes undone in the sink. This sounds simple, but it is breaking the rules both have agreed upon. With their combined lives being an intricate balancing act and deviation can have a ripple effect causing unwanted chaos.
The two communicate to each other via video messages left each night. They talk about their daily routine and share bits of their personal lives as any close siblings would. This careful balance is thrown out of whack by Jonathan’s suspicions as to why he has been so tired lately. Getting to the point of hiring a PI to track “his” movements and report back (much to the complete confusion of the PI). This uncovers that the fun loving John has broken yet another rule and become romantically involved with a girl. Where their previous agreement dictated no long term romantic engagements this throws them both into a tailspin that quickly gets out of control. At first the two identities separate from each other with only the reserved Jonathan continuing their only form of communication. This causes a deep rift between them and one that eventually leads to a conflict over control of their single host body.
Dr. Nariman, who developed the science responsible for being able to separate the two minds and allow them to live harmoniously together now is forced to step in and try to right the situation. As the two spent most of their childhood in medical care with Nariman acting as sort of a surrogate mother this is a return home for them both. I don’t wish to spoil anymore of the major plot points, but the story had a real strong impact in how it dealt with the issues of mental challenges. I do recommend this to anyone interested in more sedate thrillers that are a slow burn and force you to think.