It’s truly a rare thing when you watch a relatively unknown film and find yourself wanting to tell as many people as possible about what you’ve just seen. Not because you had a blockbuster cinematic experience while viewing, but because it was tender and real, heart-warming and relatable, and you wanted to see more come the final moments.
This is what is really remarkable about independent filmmaking; it has a quality unto its own, something so pure and un-fussy, yet so spectacularly memorable. KING JACK is just that. You might not see a simpler movie this year, but that simplicity is not to be underestimated or belittled, for coming-of-age is seen so perfectly on film here, without the angst of many teen dramas of now.
KING JACK follows 15 year-old Jack over the course of a long hot summer weekend when his younger cousin Ben comes to stay, and he finds himself transforming with age. Jack is in it that phase of adolescence where girls are of interest and anger is prominent – he won’t allow his bullies to interrogate him much longer as he finds his bravery. Jack is played by Charlie Plummer and Ben by Cory Nichols, both are exceptional young actors.
Plummer is remarkable from start to finish, beguiling in his role as a confused teen, finding his feet in this crazy world and discovering who he wants to surround himself with. Nichols is a somewhat silent co-star, but he seems so wise beyond his years just through physicality and mannerisms and he aids Jack in his journey towards finding real friendship for the first time. The pair share such a touching bond as they protect each other against the bad guys of the small town Jack inhabits and Ben reluctantly visits. Surprisingly, it’s the younger boy who teaches the other how to be a better person and this tiny detail in the narrative makes for such a refreshing adage. KING JACK is really something special.
The entire ensemble comes together to make for a truly realistic depiction of suburban life, from Christian Madsen as the older brother, to Daniel Flaherty as the school bully – on paper it sounds clichéd but in reality it’s entirely complex in its exploration of just one character and those around him. Aside from the central narrative of Jack and Ben, there are an array of sub-plots that are briefly touched-upon, but never fully explored and while, in many cases, this would be a strike against a feature, somehow here it propels the narrative forward – motivating its audience to stay present, watching and wanting more.
Director and writer Felix Thompson focuses on locale to create a hazy summer setting which creates an atmosphere of longing – in Jack’s case, longing for a friend. While Thompson asks a lot of his young cast he doesn’t push to no avail; supported by a script that is nearly faultless, Plummer and Nichols’ age is understood by their helmer who works to showcase the highs and lows of growing up in a short 80 minutes. The whimsical ending is true to indie form, closing the feature in a way that is judged perfectly by Thompson.
This is wonderful filmmaking that should be seen by as many people as possible. Tender and thoughtful, KING JACK is as real a portrayal of everyday life as living it yourself.