Directed by Craig Roberts
Starring Craig Roberts, Emile Hirsch & Charlotte Randall
Film review by Monica Jowett
Craig Roberts, known for starring in Richard Ayoade’s quirky Submarine, stars, writes and directs his first film Just Jim. The dark comedy shows an outcast teenager Jim (Craig Roberts) in a Welsh village whose incredible awkwardness stops him from fitting in with anyone. Then Dean (Emile Hirsch) moves in next door, the American who will make him cool and fit in.
Jim is defined as odd from the start, as he has no friends at school; his parents ignore him and even his dog runs away from him. He wallows in self-pity, until he meets Dean, the smoking, leather jacket-wearing American who doesn’t fit in the dreary Welsh town either but seems to exude coolness through his nonchalant personality. Dean manages to turn Jim’s popularity around quickly, making him win school races, date Jackie (Charlotte Randall) the girl he has pined over for months and turning his look to that of James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.
Emile Hirsch as Dean is all Jim wants to be. Played as though he might not be real, until he meets Jim’s parents who immediately fall for the confident, alluring American, so much so that Dean manages to manipulate their image of their own son and starts to ruin Jim’s new cool image before it has even solidified. Though Hirsch’s character leaves as quickly as he arrives into the story and he is always shrouded in mystery, he adds a level of appeal to the film.
For a directorial debut, and also writing the script and starring, Roberts has made a good start for his first film. His quirky self-deprecating humour that worked well in Submarine carries on here, but falling a little flat at times. He also proves he can handle being behind the camera, creating the Welsh town of Maesycwmmer, Roberts’ home town and filming Just Jim to be as odd as his character and using some interesting camera shots that zoom in to the close ups, helped by Director of Photography Richard Stoddard.
A low key comedy that creates some laughs at Jim’s lack of function in the world around him, the film may have worked better as a drama, as Jim’s character goes full circle and suggests standing out and being cool might not be what it’s cracked up to be.