This heartwarming, funny and endearing film features two wonderful central performances.
Written and directed by Phil Connell, Jump,Darling is an understated film that shows the importance of family relationships and family history in helping to make decisions about the way life takes you.
Engaging and funny, the film follows Russell (Thomas Duplessie) who is at a crossroads in his life. Following a break up with his boyfriend who doesn’t approve of him being an aspiring drag queen he travels to his grandmother Margaret’s (Cloris Leachman) house to figure out what he wants to do. But once there he discovers Margaret is at a bit of a turning point in her life too and so he stays to help her but in doing so can he get his life back on track?
From start to finish, the warmth between Russell and Margaret is really touching to witness – particularly in the little moments such as when he has to help her shower or tries to encourage her to go back to playing bridge. It is a gentle and sensitive relationship that works beautifully on screen. It is a story of healing and acceptance – one dealing with the loneliness and grief of her husband’s death while trying to deal with her own memory loss, while the other needs to accept that his journey to success lies in drag and that there is certainly nothing wrong with that. But it is also a relationship about being honest – neither of them beat about the bush when it comes to telling each other how they feel that lead to some lovely conversations.
The whole film has been sensitively written and directed by Phil Connell in a way that grabs the audience’s attention in a subtle way, reminding us that if you are feeling down or depressed the best way to move forward from that is by helping others as Russell ultimately discovers. Perhaps there are certain elements that could have been explored in more detail – certainly the history of family suicide is an important factor but feels as though it is only slightly touched upon through Margaret’s memories and her discussing it briefly with Russell as a warning about his behaviour.
Meanwhile, the whole story has been captured in a vivid and intimate way, with the camera shots and angles bringing the audience even closer to the characters that is really pleasing and makes it even more enjoyable to watch. In particular, I loved the sequences in which Russell is performing as Fishy Falters – with its cool music choices and vibrant choreography it shows what the character is capable of perfectly, captured in a music video style.
But it is the utterly natural performances from the cast that really take Jump,Darling to the next level. In particular, Cloris Leachman (in her last film role before she passed away) as Margaret is wonderfully brittle and sharp yet at the same time her warmth and affection shine through – it is a wonderfully complex performance that manages to break the heart, as you see towards the final scenes. But she is well matched by Thomas Duplessie as Russell, highlighting his vulnerability, uncertainty and lack of direction in life but also how he is able to hide this lack of confidence behind his persona as Fishy Falters. His is a performance that is well thought out and detailed – and despite him making some poor decisions along the way you can’t help be drawn to his story.
Perhaps the film could have gone into more depth, but there is no denying that the two central performances are well worth catching. A heartwarming and heartbreaking watch.
By Emma Clarendon
Jump, Darling will be available to watch via the BFI Player from the 17th to the 28th March. To find out more visit: https://www.bfi.org.uk/flare/films/jump-darling