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Little Joe  (DVD)


Stars: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, Lindsay Duncan, Kit Connor, Leanne Best, Phenix Brossard

Director: Jessica Hausner

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is clearly the inspiration for this Euro co-production where, in an unnamed city, a group of scientists is working on new kinds of flower, specifically a scarlet cross between a chrysanthemum and a thistle that has no leaves, but has been engineered to be a 'a mood-lifting, anti-depressant, happy plant', beneficial to the environment.

'Talk to it,' the scientists are advised. 'It needs attention and affection'. Unfortunately the plants, now in their hundreds in the warmth of a greenhouse, have pollen that affects the brains of the sniffers, rendering them robotic and protective of the plants, called Little Joes, at all costs.

It's an intriguing idea to be sure, but the treatment is as alienating and sterile as the plants. The truly annoying soundtrack is made up of scrapes, hisses and cacophonic sounds rather than music, while the director seems obsessed with placing characters on opposite sides of the screen, sometimes taking them out of shot altogether. The film also doesn't have an ending that's at all satisfactory.

Performances are functional but no more, with leading lady Beecham lacking colour and conviction. Sessions between her and a psychiatrist (Duncan) are oddly written, and bear very little relevance to the rest of the film.

David Quinlan

Austria/UK/Netherlands/Germany 2019. UK Distributor: BFI (BBC Films). Colour.
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 11 Jun 2020