Synopsis: James, a 21-year-old New Yorker, struggles to take control of his self-destructive behavior in the face of momentous family challenges.
Release Date: November 27, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Borderline Films is the production company formed by film school pals Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, and Josh Mond. The three filmmakers alternate projects, with two producing while the third writes and directs. So far, the partnership has been fruitful, with Durkin helming Martha Marcy May Marlene and Campos coming up with both Afterschool and Simon Killer. Now, it’s Mond’s turn to take the wheel with James White.
Played by Christopher Abbott (A Most Violent Year), the title character in James White is a young New York man whose mother, Gail (Cynthia Nixon from “Sex and the City”), is suffering from advanced cancer. James takes care of his mother, but copes with her illness personally by engaging in the self-destructive behavior of drinking, doing drugs, and getting into fights on a nightly basis. James loves his mother, but he finds himself torn between his impending grief over her passing and his own inability to be a responsible adult human being. Along with his best friend, Nick (Scott Mescudi, aka Kid Cudi, from Need for Speed), and his new girlfriend, Jayne (Makenzie Leigh from “The Slap”), James works to get his life straightened out while he still has some time left with his mother.
James White is a very honest and real film, a trait which most likely comes from the fact that it is somewhat autobiographical; Josh Mond found the writing and shooting of the film to be a cathartic way of dealing with his own mother’s passing from cancer. It’s doubtful that Mond dealt with things in his real life as poorly as the character of James does in the movie, but the feelings and emotions of the film are very genuine. James is a classic anti-hero; when James’ mother’s illness affects him so negatively that he channels his energy into unhealthy and selfish acts, the audience relates to it, sympathizes with it, and, most importantly, loves to hate him for it. The viewer doesn’t want him to fail, but they want to take him and shake him until he straightens up. James White is that kind of a movie.
Speaking from a cinematic frame of reference, there’s not a lot to James White, but its minimalist style ends up working in its favor. Technically, it’s a very simple film, with vérité cinematography, sparse editing, and an almost non-existent score. Because of the lack of frills, it’s also a very raw film. Wide open and emotionally effective, James White really packs a punch.
As the actor who is onscreen for basically the entire movie, Christopher Abbott has a field day with James White. His performance is absolutely riveting. He’s the epitome of the flawed hero. Abbott manages to portray the character of James as a selfish jerk while still keeping him likeable enough for the audience to root for him. Much of the movie comes down to tight close-up shots of James’ face, so there’s really nowhere for Abbott to hide, much like there’s nowhere for James to hide from his mother’s illness, his nagging responsibilities, and his failures at life. Abbott does not shy away from the microscope, instead letting the audience see and feel his every thought and emotion as he helplessly and haplessly drifts through his days. James White is completely anchored by Christopher Abbott’s stellar performance.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Josh Mond
- Producer(s): Antonio CamposSean DurkinMax BornMelody C. RosherF.A. Eric Schultz
- Screenwriter(s): Josh Mond
- Cast: Christopher Abbott (James White)Cynthia Nixon (Gail White)Scott Mescudi (Nick) Ron Livingston (Ben)Makenzie Leigh (Jayne)David Call (Elliot)David Cale (Grief Counselor)Jeanette Dilone (Irene)David Harris (Joe)Sue Jean Kim (Karen)Bhavesh Patel (Dr. Lobo)Shannon Viehmeyer (Nurse Cara Alcorn)
- Editor(s): Matthew Hannam
- Cinematographer: Mátyás Erdély
- Production Designer(s): Scott Kuzio
- Costume Designer: Emma Potter
- Casting Director(s): Susan Shopmaker
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA