Jess Plus None - BFI Flare
Mar 24, 2023
Abby Miller, Marielle Scott, Rory O'Malley
‘For lovers of romcoms with a difference: Jess is stuck in the woods for an off-the-grid wedding and must find a way to deal with her ex, her friends and, frankly, herself.’
Jess, an anxious and emotionally affected woman, is stuck in the woods for her college best friend, Melanie’s, wedding in Jess Plus None, a film about the trials and tribulations of love and heartbreak in a modern age. Putting every person in Jess’ friendship group together for a wedding quickly becomes a “pressure-cooker” situation, particularly because her ex-girlfriend Sam is also a wedding guest and Jess is still in denial about the break-up. This is a deeply funny romantic comedy that highlights many contemporary struggles concerning relationships, singledom and living off the grid even just for a few days.
The film wrestles with very different character types in the same space who are all demanding what they need, but no one is able to listen to each other. Whilst there are moments that feel sad or moving, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments. Ultimately, it is great to see a leading bisexual female character in a feature-length film and writer and director Mandy Fabian has created a character in Jess that is both flawed and relatable. Jess is a protagonist who is in desperate need of support mostly because she is the odd one out in her main friendship group. She is unable to relate to her friends anymore and they are not happy with her past actions, which results in plenty of moments where the viewer experiences sympathy towards Jess. It is clear that she is lonely and desperately tries to socialise with her friends as she always has done in the past, but there is now a disconnect.
There are plenty of witty and hilarious moments in the script, with plenty of awkward conversations that are equally funny and uncomfortable. Lots of interactions throughout the film seem forced, particular due to the fact that other characters feel uneasy around Jess. As they are mostly at different life stages to Jess, they do not know how to speak to her anymore, and neither does she. The wedding weekend feels like a ticking time bomb as everyone sees Jess as really awkward and so do not include her in group discussions. Whilst this seems outrageous for a group of adults to do, it speaks volumes to the isolation that Jess is experiencing. It is very poignant to include this in a film, as Jess is made out to be the bad guy partly because she sees little value in herself.
In addition to the humour, there are plenty of emotive scenes about the relatable struggle of maintaining friendships and relationships as an adult. Large life changes have happened to Jess’ friends, including new relationships, expanding a family and getting married, none of which are happening to her. Being the only single friend left in the group, Jess is desperate to maintain these connections amongst plenty of changes. She ultimately wants to learn to accept what she actually deserves, regardless of whether reconciliation is possible or not.
Jess Plus None truly examines a protagonist at a crossroads and trying to embark upon a journey towards trying to gain ownership over their life. It is a situation that many adults may face at some stage of their life with those around them. Mandy Fabian has successfully crafted a film that works towards a realisation that actually it is okay if not everything works out.