Dangerous plants aren’t a new phenomenon in film. Little Shop of Horrors, The Ruins, The Happening, … all star flora with a thirst for blood. But where the aforementioned plants actually want to kill, Little Joe is just trying to manipulate and survive.

Austrian director Jessica Hausner‘s film tells the story of Alice (Emily BeechamCruella) and her teenage son, Joe (Kit ConnorHis Dark Materials). Being the dedicated plant breeder she is, she takes home a newly engineered species. Without realising, Little Joe has started to mesmerise and slowly change her son’s behaviour. The plant feeds off stimuli and good care, in return making the owner happy, but this crimson species is capable of much more harm than good.

Hausner co-wrote the film with Geraldine Bajard, with whom she’s worked before. The main issue with Little Joe‘s plot is that it feels extremely stretched out for what it actually is. What could’ve been a compelling short film, becomes a sluggish and repetitive genre exercise, filled with sterile performances of otherwise proven talented actors and solely aesthetically pleasing colours while an ear deafening score ruins the viewing experience.

Little Joe plays it safe on all levels and doesn’t feel as fresh as it thinks it is. It borrows heavily from other films and in a perfect world would’ve been a forgettable episode in one of the earlier seasons of Black Mirror.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

In Select Cinemas July 1

Review – Little Joe

Reviewed online (screener provided by Rialto Distribution), July 5, 2021. Rating: M. Running Time: 105 min.

PRODUCTION: (AU) A Rialto Distribution release of a Coop99 Filmproduktion, The Bureau, Essential Filmproduktion GmbH, Arte Deutschland TV, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Little Joe Productions, Société Parisienne de Production, Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF) production. Producers: Philippe Bober, Bertrand Faivre, Martin Gschlacht, Jessica Hausner, Gerardine O’Flynn, Bruno Wagner. Executive producer: Mary Burke, Vincent Gadelle, Rose Garnett, Marina Perales Marhuenda, Michel Merkt.

CREW: Director: Jessica Hausner. Writers: Jessica Hausner, Geraldine Bajard. Cinematography: Martin Gschlacht. Editing: Karina Ressler.

CAST: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, Kit Connor, David Wilmot, Phénix Brossard, Sebastian Hülk.

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