Jonathan movie review: Sci-fi role(s) for Ansel Elgort

Ansel Elgort as Jonathan
Ansel Elgort as Jonathan in the eponymous film. Photo credit: Zach Kuperstein

Ansel Elgort is arguably the hottest young male Millennial actor, already known for his performances as the male lead in the melodrama The Fault in our Stars and his title role in the action-thriller Baby Driver, not to mention his supporting roles in the Divergent series. In the sci-fi drama Jonathan, he doubles down in the title role as a young man not with a split personality but quite literally two personalities.

In his feature directorial debut Bill Oliver imagines a near future in which a rare condition leaves two distinct persons trapped inside one body. A digital brain implant, in effect, separates the two personalities, allowing them to lead the rough outline of a normal life.

Jonathan is introverted and “really uptight” as Elgort described the character in comments following the film’s premiere at Tribeca Film Festival. His “brother” John is the opposite — a real hail-fellow-well-met. When a woman (Suki Waterhouse) inadvertently comes between them, well, we know it’s going to end badly for one of them.

The filmmaker manages to pull off the always tricky proposition of a sci-fi film with no visual FX. In this sense, the film is more theatrical than cinematic, requiring the audience to uses their imaginations as much as the director’s. Elgort keeps us engaged if not totally convinced he is two distinct sides of the same coin. Patricia Clarkson as their brilliant and selfless doctor elevates the film with her usual flawless performance.

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