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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.13.11] review thriller drama

Year: 2011
Director: Mark Jackson
Writer: Mark Jackson
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8 out of 10

While on a break from school, Joslyn takes a short term job on a remote island on the West Coast, looking after a man who is a vegetative state while the family goes on holiday. Upon arrival, the eccentric family runs down the basic rules and procedures before handing over a never ending list of to-do's which they refer to as "the bible." Frank, the man Joslyn has been charged with caring for, might be incapacitated but the family refers to the elderly man as if he governs the home with an iron fist. "You'll know if he doesn't like it," they keep saying but when we finally see the man, it's clear he's not capable of much. So begins Mark Jackson's debut thriller Without.

The job stars off well enough and other than feeding, cleaning and eventually putting Frank to bed, Joslyn's days are full of free time. With no internet or cellphone connection, the young woman spends her days exercising and lounging around the house while occasionally making runs into town for supplies. After a few days of limited communication, she stars to itch for the outside world. She goes hunting through the family's storage room in search of a computer and her desperation is clear when she emerges with an ancient machine that once set up, isn't even capable of handling the dial-up connection. Desperation turns to obsession and for days she tries to get the dynosaur working with little success. And the things start to get strange.

She wakes to find her cellphone in a different place than where she left it, a large welt develops on her back and she begins to suspect that perhaps Frank isn't quite as immobile as he looks. There's also the growing realization that something terrible happened to Joslyn's girlfriend and that money isn't the reason for this school sabbatical. Joslyn is looking for escape but it's not coming easily. As the days progress and cabin fever sets in, Joslyn's actions become more erratic. She completely gives up on the bible and her interactions with Frank go from detached but compassionate to rough and uncaring. As the story progresses and Joslyn falls further into paranoia, it isn't clear if Jackson's script will provide some supernatural answer to the unfolding events or if it's all in Joslyn's mind.

Part of Without's effectiveness is that it provides few answers. Jackson plays his cards close and with little dialogue, only a handful of characters and a story that largely focuses on one character's inner struggle to regain some control over her life, much of the film's success is dependent on Joslyn Jansen's performance and she delivers. Her portrayal of seemingly well adjusted college student whose self-composure begins to fray at the seams is wonderful to watch and the actress' intensity is unwavering. As her plan for closure begins to unravel at the seams, her fall into depression and a sort of madness is both touching and believable.

Jackson's direction is effective at creating tension and suspense but I had the distinct feeling that he wasn't sure how to end the story and rather than making a choice, he squeezes two closing scenes into the film and the first, by the far the most effective, loses much of its power when the film continues on for an additional ten minutes but overall, Without is an enjoyable drama with delicate thriller overtones. A fantastic directorial debut.

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david miller (9 years ago) Reply

I had the great pleasure to meet Mark at the London Film Festival and I think this was a fine debut to a directorial career. I didnt read everything into this movie gthat you did but Mark gave me a dvd which I will watch again at a quite moment and see if I agree with you.

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