Film Review: Little Joe (2019)

Currently on iPlayer, I dip into the wonderfully weird and entirely too plausible world of Little Joe

“Which of your children will you choose?”

Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe comes off as something of a twisted fable, its leanings towards psychological horror making it a queasily gripping thriller. Directed and co-written by Hausner with Géraldine Bajard, it also blooms magnificently with Martin Gschlacht’s cinematography and Katharina Wöppermann’s production design.

Emily Beecham’s Alice is a plant breeder who has developed a new flower that could set the markets on fire. Designed for maximum Insta-likes, it produces hormones to make its owners love it even more. But the effect it seems to be having on people in the lab means that in true Little Shop of Horror style, it turns out you can’t trust it. Or actually, can you?

In true twisty style, Hausner lets us make up our own mind about what’s going on. Alice is attending sessions with Lindsay Duncan’s cool psychotherapist where she’s dissecting her feelings about single motherhood (the plant is named Little Joe after Joe, her son). And the motivations of her colleagues allegedly affected by the pollen (including Kerry Fox and Ben Whishaw, both excellent) are also open to interpretation.

The camera also plays a huge role here, often not showing us just as much as it is showing, adding to the sense of unease that is marshalled by a hugely effective score and the cumulative effect is one which I found highly beguiling.

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