Starring Emile Hirsch, Craig Roberts,
Just Jim is the second, actor turned directorial debut, at SXSW. Craig Roberts might not be a household name just yet, however if you saw his extraordinary performance in Submarine (2010) then you understand how he works. Oliver Tate, his Submarine persona somewhat reflects his true personality. Submarine, a film centered around a depressed teenager in small town Whales, could be a companion piece to Just Jim. In between the two depressed Whales teenagers, Roberts dabbled in mainstream with American comedies 22 Jump Street and Neighbors. Just Jim is a return to the Euro indie film for Roberts but this time he is doing triple duty as the star, writer and director.
To say Jim (Roberts) is unpopular in school is an understatement. Picked on and bullied while school is in session, withdrawn and reclusive when he is at home, no one seems to understand Jim. His parents even get his age wrong on the happy birthday sign. He fancies a pink haired girl at school who is dating his best friend Michael (Ryan Owen), and all his attempts to impress her fail. Jim’s life changes when an American moves next door and begins giving him advice on how to be cool. Dean (Hirsch) instructs Jim to have his ears pierced, get a botched tattoo, change his hair, wardrobe, essentially become like him. Jim complies, begins acting out, throws parties and everything seems work in his favor until Dean’s psychotic behavior begin effecting Jim’s personality, or is it Jim’s effecting Dean?
Roberts naturally endearing personality shines through even the darkest moments of Jim’s existence.
Depression is the key component for Just Jim according to Roberts. When I asked him how the audience should feel after the film he chuckled, “depressed”. He explained that much of the character came from his inner world of depression and living in a similar situation as Jim in the film, stuck in Whales. “When you talk to people it looks like you are taking a s**t,” Dean tells him, Jim agrees. It’s dark comedy and sometimes the funniest scenes don’t even produce audible laughs. However, Roberts naturally endearing personality shines through even the darkest moments of Jim’s existence, we root for him regardless of what he says or does and that is where the film works.
Michelle the girl he loves tells him to “grow up”, Dean eventually tells him just to kill himself, things do get very dark by the films conclusion. However what I took away from the film is: it’s better to be a depressed, struggling individual, than be a pretend, carbon-copy of someone else. Although Tom Ripley used the exact opposite phrase in The Talented Mr. Ripley and look what happened to him. Roberts first feature as writer/director is no better or worse than Ryan Gosling’s, just films on a different scale, but both have a talented eye (and ear) for filmmaking and I think their second features will be even stronger.
Craig Roberts brings his dark since of humor and depression full scale in his directorial debut.