Sundance Film Festival 2020, Berlin International Film Festival 2020
Emmanuelle Bercot, Noémie Merlant
A shy and socially awkward young woman, Jeanne (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE’s Noémie Merlant) is happiest when working alone through the nights at her neighbourhood amusement park. Her home life is difficult, her caring but intensely extroverted mom (SCHOOL’S OUT’s Emmanuelle Bercot) frequently making her feel judged and pried at in even the most casual conversations. Jeanne is under enormous pressure to get a boyfriend, if only to make her mother stop asking questions. One night, she goes to work and encounters the park’s just-delivered new flagship attraction, a towering, colourfully lit ride named Jumbo. Jeanne is overwhelmed. Moved beyond words, heart racing, her outlook on life shifting in a transformative rapturous instant. To her complete shock, Jeanne is in love. Deeply. Unshakeably.
A beautifully strange romance and a coming-of-age “coming out” story like none that cinema has seen, JUMBO launched in competition at Sundance earlier this year and hasn’t looked back, taking the festival world by storm. It’s a gobsmacking feature debut from writer/director Zoé Wittock, who brings a genuine humanity and tenderness to a kind of tale that most filmmakers would never be able to tackle, if even contemplate. In prep, she researched the lives of people with objectophilia (the condition of being sexually attracted to inanimate objects) and based her script in part on the story of Ericka Eiffel, the American woman who married the Eiffel Tower. Her casting of Merlant, whose endearing approach to the role rockets the film through the emotional stratosphere, is an especially inspired choice. JUMBO questions views of gender and sexual identity in a truly novel way, doing it with humour, heart, and breathtaking visual flair. It’s a compelling and wonderous instant classic of eccentric cinema. – Mitch Davis
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