JUMBO | FILM REVIEW
Dir: Zoe Wittock (15, 94 mins)
A love affair between a woman and an inanimate object is not your normal setup for romantic drama, but Jumbo, based on a real story, creates a heartfelt world where it works – acting as a metaphor, an acceptance for difference and sexuality in its varied spectrum. Objectophilia is a real thing: a woman in Florida married a ferris wheel in 2013 and Erika Labrie married a certain structure in Paris in 2004, becoming Erika Eiffel. This however seems more a cry for acceptance and tolerance no matter what your source of joy, rather than an in-depth exploration of ‘objectum sexual’.
It’s anchored by Noemie Merlant’s committed central performance as Jeanne, a woman who works at an amusement park. Unwilling to follow the norms, sheltered and shy, perhaps afraid of relationships with humans as they seem to let her down, she has an absent father and a flighty mother (played by Emanuelle Bercot) who believes a vibrator is better than a husband. Something her daughter will top as she falls in love with an amusement ride, a spinning Move It.
Writer/director Zoe Wittock explores the pain of first love, though never fully explaining if said love is a result of mental illness or fantasy. There are some stunning moments as Merlant ‘talks’ to the flashing neon monolith, which lights up in different colours to answer her through droning noises – these, however, only happen when she is alone with the machine. Another dream sequence is startlingly shot by cinematographer Thomas Buelens, as Merlant is engulfed with oil in a white room.
Relying heavily on Merlant to sell the love affair, the film mostly succeeds. Merlant has already channelled her capability at showing repressed love in the excellent Portrait Of A Woman On Fire, and here she papers over some of the more potentially ludicrous moments with her unerring commitment. Ultimately, however this is an erotic, unlikely romance, a little thin, but quite a ride nevertheless.
Out in cinemas and streaming via Modern Films Player from Fri 9 July
words KEIRON SELF
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