Is there ever a degree at which grief will get simpler? 16-year-old Sophie Jones (Jessica Barr) goes by way of it. Her mom has lately died. She feels tangible distance from her youthful sister Lucy (Charlie Jackson) and their father Aaron (Dave Roberts). Day by day seems like a battle that simply bleeds into one other, and one other, and one other. Nothing feels proper—and that unease, when coupled with Sophie’s adolescent sexual awakening, makes for an advanced combine that “Sophie Jones” tracks with rawness, poignancy, and barely an excessive amount of vaguery.
The movie is a household affair, directed by Jessie Barr and written by Jessie and her cousin Jessica, who additionally stars in “Sophie Jones” as its titular teenager. The Barrs drew from their very own private experiences as adolescents who every misplaced a guardian to most cancers, and the result’s that “Sophie Jones” feels deeply genuine in its understanding of grief. There aren’t any grand blowouts right here, no massively emoting moments. As a substitute, “Sophie Jones” rejects linear storytelling to function extra as a collection of vignettes, unfold out over two or so years, which observe Sophie as she struggles to mourn her mom, develop her personal persona, and discover her sexual id. We leap ahead typically days, typically weeks, typically months, however the focus is at all times two-pronged: the inside disappointment Sophie carries that she not often shares with anybody else, and the outer sexual confidence—tiptoeing into aggression—that she shows as she jumps from man to man.
On the one hand, this facilities Jessica Barr’s natural, naturalistic efficiency, permitting the actress house to work out the myriad oppositional complexities associated to mourning and need. After we meet Sophie, she’s opening the bag of her mom’s ashes, sifting by way of them together with her fingers, and placing some in her mouth (a tic she’ll use as a defensive mechanism all through the movie, additionally with blood). Is it macabre that within the subsequent scene, she’s swiping on some lipgloss and sucking on a lollipop whereas proposing a hookup association with classmate Kevin (Skyler Verity)? Possibly! However this form of vacillation is Sophie’s new regular. She hasn’t been doing medication, consuming, or partaking in self-harm, she tells a therapist—however what she doesn’t share is that her sexual experimentation is gaining her a sure fame.
No interplay is strictly the identical. There’s Kevin, who clearly has emotions for Sophie that go additional than simply their hookups; she shuts him down. There’s a senior who tells a pal of a pal that he thinks Sophie is cute; instantly she’s planning to lose her virginity to him. There’s Sophie’s closest man pal, who has been by her aspect for years and who has by no means made a transfer—however whom Sophie tries to forcibly kiss in her automobile. Sophie’s grief and her sexual selections are most likely interlinked, as Sophie’s frightened finest pal Claire (Claire Manning) suggests, however Sophie doesn’t care about being appeared down upon by her classmates. So what if different women snigger at her? So what if a random acquaintance pulls her apart to inform her she’s embarrassing herself? Might any of that basically be worse than shedding her mom? “Sophie Jones” doesn’t shrink back from the reactions Sophie receives, nevertheless it refuses to guage her, both.
That’s an admirable, arguably important, high quality for coming-of-age tales; consider how different latest movies on this subgenre, like “Girl Fowl,” “Skate Kitchen,” and “Hala,” additionally deal with their feminine characters with the respect that earlier generations of movies about younger ladies typically lacked. “Sophie Jones” equates being inside its character’s headspace with being near her bodily: tight pictures of her profile as she drives round, a floating digital camera in her bed room as she somberly thinks about her mom, and well-edited hookup scenes that seize her gleeful abandon or painful remorse. However on the different hand, “Sophie Jones” typically stumbles on this narrowness. The movie’s alignment with Sophie is so thorough that there aren’t any scenes with out her, which makes a few of these time jumps disorienting. If we’ve been with Sophie this complete time, how did weeks simply move? When did the connection she instantly has with one in every of these guys happen? What occurred within the time between, say, New Yr’s, and when Sophie is instantly on the point of go away for school? The narrative connections are typically so hazy that Sophie’s behaviors learn extra as erratic than as spontaneous, and extra plot particulars within the Barrs’ script may need higher contextualized a few of her persona shifts.
However, this strategy favors Jessica Barr’s inhabiting of the character she helped write, and that’s undoubtedly the best power of “Sophie Jones.” Watching it, I used to be reminded of Margaret Atwood’s quote from the novel Alias Grace: “If you find yourself in the course of a narrative it is not a narrative in any respect, however solely a confusion.” Practically each scene in “Sophie Jones” is both meditative or combative in a roundabout way, and Barr nails the flickering, shifting, visceral feelings of adolescence. The deadpan manner she says of oral intercourse, “I may simply chew his dick off if I wished to,” after which her little snigger afterward; her completely unimpressed supply of, “That is intercourse? That is it?”; the best way her face shifts from tense rapture to barely veiled perturbation when a man asks her, “You’re on contraception, proper?”; how she lets her sentences path off when she’s bored with a dialog. Even when the script depends an excessive amount of on her have an effect on, the actress stays impressively self-possessed, and the movie’s framing of her is evocative. “Sophie Jones” is a promising effort from each Barr ladies.
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