The process of dying was exposed in a copious number of films, from Hollywood productions (Philadeplhia) to devastating indies (recent Me and Earl and The Dying Girl or Chronic). Although Josh Mond’s James White does not bring much innovation to the table, but it dwells on the specifics of mother-and-son relation and does that in a truly convincing manner.
The titular James White (Christopher Abbott) struggles with down-to-earth problems – seeking job and trying to make ends meet. Nonetheless, the rhythm of his life is adjusted to his mother (Cynthia Nixon), whose body slowly gives up in an uneven battle against spreading cancer.
Josh Mond, even though touching a rather schematic topic, examines a depressingly dark corner of the story – the sickness devouring the protagonist’s beloved mother spreads onto him too. James White, while he progressively loses the capacity to control his own life, feels as if he was deprived of the power to surpass mother’s cancer and it causes a vast disintegration in his personal life. His life reminisces a glass, broken into thousand shards, that James chaotically puts together. The escape to friend’s workplace in Mexico, swiftly met girlfriend- all of that is those pieces of glass that White tries to collect so dramatically. Yet, this chain of random actions aimed at putting his life together is always defined by and broken by his mother’s suffering.
Mond’s drama plays out so well mainly due to solid acting performances by the leading actors – Nixon and Abbott. Both establish a mesmerizing bond, built of detailed understanding of what their characters are going through. Whilst Nixon delivers a heartrendingly dramatic performance, it’s Abbott, whose role plays the first strings. James is troubled for many reasons, trapped inside walls that he builts for himself – and all that is visible in Abbott acting. What’s more, the discrete direction style and no-fireworks-attached cinematography also do their parts in exposing the actors.
James White did not manage to break out during any bigger festivals and it’s a pity – whilst some other indie **** (Heavens Know What just as an example) was given lots of credit, Mond’s film went into the void of silence, apart from an Audience Award from the Sundance Film Festival. Nevertheless, after screening of this film one may be certain that Josh Mond and Christopher Abbott are about to become even more worthwhile one day.
UMP Grade: 35.5/50
(Cinematography: 6.5, Plot: 7, Acting: 8, Soundtrack: 7, Quaintness: 7)