NZ IFF 2020 Day 9

Moving into the second week of the festival; I had been more anxious about cramming my program in, because it hadn’t been clear to many that many films would be rolling over into another week. Imagine my relief when I found I could space things out more than I’d originally planned.


Jumbo was an easy selection for me, given that it would be lead by Noémie Merlant, who was one of the leads of the superb Portait of a Lady on Fire. That film was a period piece about a doomed romance, and this one is a modern version of the same theme, in the broadest sense. The similarity rather ends there, though.

Merlant’s Jeanne is obsessed with machines, specifically fairground rides, and this rests as the source of the conflict between her and, well, almost everyone else in the film, but especially her mother: a middle-aged, hard rock-loving, muscle car-driving sexpot who is at first bemused by, and eventually infurated with, her daughter’s disinterest in men.

I liked Jumbo and there’s interesting ideas and relationships there, but it’s ultimately too flawed for me to rave about; it tries to cram too much in, and ends up feeling disjointed as a result. Had it stripped back some of the ancilliary relationships (the boss/possible boyfriend, the magic black friend who appears and disappears for no readily apparent reason) and left a little more room to develop others (the mother’s boyfriend and his influence on her, particularly), it would have been a much, much stronger film.