He’s a man with little interest in anyone but himself. He’s dislikeable, he’s disreputable, he’s disloyal and you wouldn’t want him in the same room as any of your female relatives, the dirty little bleeder.
You’d therefore wonder whether a film with James White as its sole focus would be worth an hour and a half of your time. For reasons it’s a little tricky to explain, yes, it is.
James White is at something of a crossroads, unsure about what to do with his life, urged by the people in his life to knuckle down and make something of himself; but a little too keen on the booze and bugle for that to be a realistic proposition. His father has just died, messing things up even more for a man perfectly capable of messing things up all by himself, including his relationship with his mother and his best friend. This is the type of chap who decides he needs a couple of weeks in Mexico to write about his feelings, and meditate.
The movie follows a period of months in James’ life, focused very much on him and his actions rather than any attempt at a wider plot. Truth be told, not a whole lot happens. These are the kind of films that remind me that even if Independence Day was a barrelful of bollocks, at least they blew the White House up.
And yet, perhaps through the quality of the cinematography alone, the movie is surprisingly engaging. Often in and out of focus, with White in the centre of the screen for the majority of the film, it’s a splendidly made piece of art that somehow enables you to sympathise with his travails, unsympathetic as he would seem on paper. Emotions play out vividly on the face of actor Christopher Abbott, who couldn’t conceivably inhabit the role better than he does. The scene in which he attempts to inveigle a job out of a family friend is a superb piece of acting.
Cynthia Nixon is also well cast as the mother whose developing illness causes the most upheaval in James’s life. The supporting cast have little to do with White so central to both the story, such as is it, and the production, and once again I find myself at a loss to explain why this film didn’t annoy the bejesus out of me.
Plainly it’s a film there’s no need to see twice, but though under normal circumstances I’d say if you’re no fan of character-driven films with little plot you’d do well to avoid this, perhaps here it’s worth a look. Somehow, this just works.
James White does, however, remain a git.
Review by Chris Lockie
James White is out now on home entertainment.