(Original title: Jonas)
Hiding away in the corner of Netflix sprawling catalogue is a hidden gem of LGBTQ+ cinema, I Am Jonas, written and directed by Christophe Charrier – a film brimming with originality, emotion and intrigue. I am Jonas has not received either the attention or praise it deserves since its release. But believe me, Charrier’s film is a richly textured and beautifully performed delight.
Our film opens in a gas station car park circa 1997. Here fifteen-year-old Jonas (Nicolas Bauwens) sits quietly playing on his Gameboy while his dad is in the store – as Jonas waits, the catchy earworm of the Tetris tune of ‘Korobeiniki’ cuts through the night air. However, as the battery on his Gameboy fades, Jonas finds his attention drifting to the darkest corners of the gas station lot. There, a boy suddenly appears before being dragged back into the darkness. Jonas screams out in fear as a trickle of blood runs from his nose before his dad returns.
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We then jump forward to the present day as we meet the adult Jonas (Félix Maritaud), who glides through life alone and troubled by the past. Here Jonas’ relationships are as battered and worn as his soul as he gets into endless fights at the local gay club (Boys). His only security, the redundant Gameboy he holds close at all times. But what has led this bright young man into the darkness of his adult life? We are about to find out through a series of flashbacks as the past and present slowly converge on a path to healing.
Part coming of age drama and thriller, I Am Jonas wraps the viewer in a deep and powerful journey of healing and acceptance. Here the adult Jonas is held hostage by his youth, his escape route barred by the ghosts of his own inaction and his inability to change the past. Within its beautifully structured narrative, I Am Jonas places the power of first love alongside the neverending force of grief and guilt. The result puts Jonas in an inescapable void of trauma, his only opportunity for inner peace laying within his ability to move beyond his teenage experiences.
Due to its subject matter, it may come as no surprise that the real strength of Charrier’s film sits in its quiet moments. Numerous scenes bristle with silent sexual tension, desire and emotion in a haunting portrait of love, memory, and loss. The result is a beautiful lesser-known LGBTQ+ gem that offers us a beautiful exploration of internal and external forgiveness.
Director: Christophe Charrier