There is much to be admire in Jessica Hausner’s first English language film ‘Little Joe’. It’s glorious cinematography and unconventional score mixing with a homage to both Day of the Triffids and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. While also embracing the tongue in cheek mystery of Tales of the Unexpected. However, despite its glorious visuals and promise of excellence this is a film that sadly never reaches the heights of its initial promise. With a story that looses its way in the translation to a feature length film. Ultimately creating a beautiful but deeply frustrating enigma.
Alice (Emily Beecham) is a divorced single mother scientist. Developing a strain of genetically engineered plants whose scent will make people happy. A workaholic, Alice balances her love of all things botanical with taking care of her teenage son Joe (Kit Connor). While her colleague Chris (Ben Whishaw), is secretly in love with her, Joe trying to encourage his mother to see the unconfident love Chris displays.
To ensure the success of her mood enhancing plant Alice breaks the rules. Accelerating the plant’s development with no testing of its properties. Even bringing one home and naming it “Little Joe”. And while the beautiful red flower of ‘Little Joe’ may have been stopped from reproducing naturally. The clever plant finds a way of ensuring its survival by slowly changing those who breath in its ejected pollen.
Hausner bathes Little Joe in sumptuous colour and light. Creating an almost sexual atmosphere as the plant unfolds, surrounded by the sterility of the lab it was birthed within. When coupled with its truly unique score, this creates a beautiful visual and auditory journey. However, this is unfortunately never fully matched by the story at its heart.
Director: Jessica Hausner