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James White
USA 2015
Directed by Josh Mond
Running time 85 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Any film that begins with the death of its protagonist’s father and ends with the death of his mother, unless it is a superhero movie of course, which James White definitely is not, is going to have its work cut out to attract an audience but an insightful script and outstanding performances from Cynthia Nixon and Christopher Abbott as a cancer victim and her difficult adult son, debut writer-director Josh Mond’s film should overcome these hurdles.

Abbott is the eponymous James White, an abrasive thirty-something who refuses to abandon his wanton party life which is fueled by his disdain for the world at large.  However James is at the same time struggling to avoid the awareness that the problems are more “his” than “theirs”, his vaguely adumbrated ambition to be a writer merely a pretext for him to shirk entry into the adult world that surrounds him and that his dying mother makes unavoidably present.

There is not much in the way of plot in Mond’s film but James White is above-all a character study. Here Mond’s script rings true and Abbott’s marvellous performance even more so, with Nixon also in sterling form as the loving mother facing her own demise with more concern for her wayward offspring than herself.  Perhaps introduced to lighten up proceedings, there is a sequence in which James goes on holiday to Mexico where he acquires a pretty girlfriend (Makenzie Leigh), a turn of events that seems misplaced  (and as it turns out is largely irrelevant to the main narrative) but this aside James White is a winningly small-scale but compelling experience.

Available from: Madman

 

 

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