Sunday, February 5, 2017

Piotr J. Lewandowski's JONATHAN proves a not-so-hot "family secrets" melodrama

If you enjoy melodramatic movies in which long buried family secrets come to the fore, then JONATHAN -- the new (and first-full-length) German film from Polish-born director Piotr J. Lewandowski -- may be just your cup of tsuris. Most adult filmgoers who've been around the block once or twice will be far ahead of both the title character and the film he occupies in terms of figuring out exactly what's going on here. Heavy-handed does not begin to describe the movie's style.

Cancer, chemo-therapy, and "I can't go on!" are all present and accounted for, as is a budding "first love," and Lewandowski, shown at left, packs them all in with a vengeance. Unfortunately, the title character is something of a major twat, although the actor who plays him (Jannis Niewöhner, shown above and below) is hunky enough to keep us watching and would probably seem a perfectly good actor when seen in less turgid material.

Jonathan behaves so poorly throughout that his redemption at the finale seems both stupid and unearned. Granted, the filmmaker enjoys piling it on, and if you happen to be a sucker for that sort of thing, Jonathan is definitely made for you.

Early there's a shot of a spider and fly, and we see spiders again off and on throughout, along with moths attracted to (if not the flame) the bright light. Lest you imagine some symbolism here, as did I, after a time it seems that the filmmaker is instead merely giving us a closer look at "the natural world." The movie, set in the lush countryside of a farming community where Jonathan, his father and aunt all labor, is certainly easy on the eyes, foliage-wise.

Dad (André Hennicke, above, left) has terminal cancer, however, and though his son takes care of him, communication does not seem to have been one of their more valued endeavors. "Tell me about mama," Jon queries his dad at one point, following this with, "I don't know anything about her." Hello: You're asking this now?

The less said about the film's utterly schlocky finale -- with light pouring from the heavens yet! --  the better. Enough to know that every scene goes on perhaps twice as long as it needs to make its point. Still, Thomas Sarbacher, below, makes a very impressive old friend of dad, while Julia Koschitz, above, proves a pretty, sprightly caretaker-cum-lady love. The rest of the cast is as fine as the material allows.

Running a seemingly forever 99 minutes, the movie -- in German with English subtitles -- will be released this Tuesday, February 7th, in the U.S. and Canada on DVD and VOD via Wolfe Video -- for purchase/rental.  

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