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When Jack Came Back

average rating is 4 out of 5


Chris Olson


Posted on:

Sep 30, 2022

Film Reviews
When Jack Came Back
Directed by:
Thor Moreno
Written by:
Thor Moreno
Mike Markoff, Lindsay Wagner, Lance Henriksen

A story of estrangement and familial tragedy in Thor Moreno’s heartfelt drama When Jack Came Back, the film stars Mike Markoff and Lindsay Wagner as a son and mother brought together after years of resentment by the death of their father/husband respectively.

Markoff plays the titular Jack, a professional actor who is on the cusp of a comeback after a suspiciously juicy firing from a popular TV show that is never fully revealed. An upcoming acting job must wait, however, when he receives a phone call from his mother Nancy (Wagner) telling him his father’s funeral is on the same day Jack is due to start his new role. Jack comes back to Iowa, much to the chagrin of his agent and girlfriend, for what he hopes is a quick visit to pay his respects to his father and get back to L.A. asap so he can continue to live his dream. His stay in his small hometown is elongated, however, when it is revealed that the mother whom he hates is suffering from dementia and that he is the only person who can help.

Moreno has secured himself a very solid film with When Jack Came Back simply because the story is excellent. It tells a simple yet heartfelt tale that will resonate with a mainstream audience, creating a clear path for the actors to run at. Solidified by a great performance by Markoff and an even greater one by Wagner, it’s a drama that plays all the sombre notes in the right order to sweep you up. We care about Jack and his dilemma but we also see the point-of-view of his mother, who resents her son for moving away. Their chemistry on screen is the best part of the film. There are moments when supporting characters threaten to derail the piece with less than impressive acting, as well as a few comedic misfires that should never have made the final cut, however, the bulk of the film is moving and profound.

As with any film dealing with the impact of dementia, there is an inherent pathos built into the movie. What’s impressive about When Jack Came Back is that it manages to hit on multiple issues that the disease can cause across all family members without feeling so heavy the viewer cannot move afterwards. Instead, the film combines this with a classic trope of reconnecting family members that allow there to be plenty of angst and fire alongside the misery and pain (all of which is a lot more entertaining than it sounds!). There were many poignant moments in the film, not least of which is the one delivered by Nancy’s nurse who talks about how rarely we consider having to look after our parents, who will all need it.

Aside from the failed comedy moments (such as an early one involving an adoring fan in the supermarket), and the thinly sketched characters (such as the uncaring agent or girlfriend), When Jack Came Back is well worth your time if you enjoyed films like Still Alice, or The Father. Embracing the darkness that comes with this type of story will allow you to fully immerse yourself into a bleakly familiar chapter that comes in most people’s lives, and one that can still be full of hope, love, and redemption.

About the Film Critic
Chris Olson
Chris Olson
Indie Feature Film
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