Everyone knows the tried-and-true format of the coming of age film as a medium for reaching audiences on an emotional level, but there’s something different in King Jack that somehow subtracts the melodrama and replaces it with a unique sense of tone and realism.
Taking place over just a few summer days, King Jack portrays the story of a fifteen-year-old kid stuck in a small, decrepit town and terrorized by a few of his peers, particularly an older, violent bully named Shane (Daniel Flaherty). As a result, Jack is troubled and generally quiet, attempting to cope with his situation by avoiding it altogether. When problems with his aunt lead to being forced to spend the weekend watching over his small and inexperienced cousin, Jack (Charlie Plummer) must come head-to-head with the delicate power balance he labors to maintain, while his naivete conflicts with the maturity of those around him.
The independent film was awarded both the Audience Award at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and the Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards in the same year for Felix Thompson’s skill as a new writer/director.
What makes the movie shine, above all else, are the two aspects of approach and acting. While this is Thompson’s first major production, his attempt to fill the film with a certain surreal quality proved successful, as he managed to keep the film’s narrative (and visual style) intimately limited and focused. Another notable point is the movie’s sense of time, which is reminiscent of several independent films in recent years where the time remains hard to pinpoint, like in the 2014 horror film It Follows. Take away Jack’s cell phone, and King Jack could just as well take place in 2016 as the mid-to-late 1900s. The performances of all actors, especially Plummer, are notable for their near-perfect balance of simplicity and complexity.
King Jack is currently available on Netflix and is highly recommended for anyone looking for an interesting and quirky film that’s both easy to watch and strangely fascinating.