The arrival of a newborn girl causes the gradual disintegration of the Cairn family; particularly for 9-year-old Joshua (Kogan), an eccentric boy whose proper upbringing and refined tastes both take a sinister turn.
The Cairn's life seems to be a harmonic family: The father Brad works as a stockbroker, his wife Abby takes care of their common new-born daughter Lily, and the 9-year-old Joshua is high-talented. But the appearances are deceptive. Joshua becomes gradual jealously, that his parents give the baby more attention than him. Therefore he begins to terrorize his family. Written by
The note that Joshua leaves for his father reads: "Dad,/Eaten lunch already/and gone to/The Brooklyn Museum of Art/having fun with Nunu and Lily." If you arrange the first letter of each line in order, it reveals an acrostic for "Death." See more »
The video tape Joshua pulls from the drawer to watch is dated 2/29/1997. 1997 was not a leap year. See more »
The Most Intelligent Horror Film Since "The Shining"
This film is so good, I saw it twice at Sundance. Certainly the best at the '07 festival. Unlike modern horror films, "Joshua" does not rely upon blood and gore to deliver its impact. Director George Ratliff weaves a tale of mounting dread and tension through stunning performances, brilliant cinematography (for which it won the Sundance '07 Best Cinematography Award) and haunting music.
The premise of the film is simple and genius, a parent's worst nightmare: what would happen if your 10 yr old child felt no love for you at all? As a society we fetish-ize childhood, romanticize their innocence, deify their pure potentiality, and self-sacrifice for their unconditional love. Given our biological and societal predilection/preoccupation towards nurturing our youth, could a parent possibly even understand or recognize that their child doesn't want their love? Instead of a child beaming with unconditional love and the positive youthful energy, Joshua is an empty shell devoid of anything resembling emotion and the effect is a chilling abomination. As a final hook, the question emerges, Is the kid bad because the parents secretly failed him somehow, or is the kid just pure evil? "Joshua" kept me entranced to the final frame.
The acting is monumental, especially Vera Farmiga who's battle with psychotic post partum depression is mind-blowingly realized. Jacob Kogan masters the thousand-mile dead eyed stare of the sociopathic titular character who steals every scene with a chilling, Mensa-like gravitas unusual in any actor, much less one so young. The music, mostly modern dissonant pieces played by Joshua on his grand piano, echoes Joshua's character: haunting and creepy yet perfectly composed and structured. The cinematography subtly changes as the film progresses, starting out colorful and normal, but then gradually growing darker, uglier and more claustrophobic, until the climax where the film looks like it was shot in Hell itself.
Like Hannibal, I found myself rooting for the "bad guy" who is a fascinating paradox: charming, talented, brilliant and self-composed but flawed to lack even the most remote shred of human empathy. I've heard a lot of comparisons to "The Omen," "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby," but these films have nothing in common with "Joshua" except that they are horror films dealing with parenthood gone awry. The horror element here is psychological, not supernatural, and it's interwoven with a great deal of social irony that makes this film much more fun to watch. Also, unlike those other films, the "problem child" in this film emerges as a fully realized personality, not just a plot device mostly due to the great performance by Jacob Kogan, who somehow accomplishes the impossible task of being lovable and hateful at the same time. The whole thing is directed masterfully by George Ratliff who steers the film between tension and laughter to achieve a thrilling and creepy film that is intelligent and amusing and keeps us guessing - to the end.
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