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Just Jim (3 stars)

Ambitious, amusing but overloaded directorial debut from actor Craig Roberts

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Just Jim

credit: Dean Rogers

An ambitious authorial / directorial debut from the 24-year-old Welsh actor Craig Roberts, this teen comedy starts on a whimsical note only to darken considerably – and overload itself somewhat – as it goes.

Roberts gives a winningly low-key, deadpan turn as the titular Jim, a 17-year-old schoolboy with absolutely nothing to lose in the popularity stakes. He’s inspired to change his outlook and personal presentation by a new neighbour, the ice-cool, foulmouthed American Dean (Emile Hirsch); but when did a slick new friend who promises to transform a nerd into a ladykiller ever turn out to be a good thing in the movies?

The opening scenes have a sweet, mannered awkwardness that recalls a lot of top-notch kid-focused indies, including Gregory’s Girl, Son of Rambow, and Roberts’ own breakout as an actor, Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. As heavy as it is on alienated-adolescent clichés, this part of the film also boasts a good few laugh-out-loud lines and moments of poignancy.

The trouble starts about halfway in, when the friendship between Jim and Dean mutates from an innocent teen take on Fight Club to a murkier state of affairs, the portrayal of which seems to draw on everything from Donnie Darko to Bad Influence to The Talented Mr Ripley. It’s a little too much for the slender structure to support; the film gets bogged down in a level of attention-seeking ambiguity that it just doesn’t need, and the sparky energy of the first half is replaced by nightmare imagery and a tone of listless negativity. This out-and-out rejection of cutesiness is a bold stylistic move, but it risks switching audiences off completely.

It’s hardly uncommon for debut features to attempt too much, however; and Roberts shows more than enough skill in the film’s better sequences to make his future efforts well worth keeping an eye out for.

Selected release from Fri 25 Sep.

Just Jim

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • UK
  • 84 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Craig Roberts
  • Cast: Emile Hirsch, Craig Roberts, Richard Harrington
  • UK release: 25 September 2015

Jim (Roberts) is an unpopular 17 year old schoolboy who's inspired to change his style by his cool new American neighbour, Dean (Hirsch); but then things take a darker turn. Roberts's debut as writer/director starts out whimsical and very funny but then overloads itself with listless negativity. Still, Roberts's future…

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