We first meet James (played by Christopher Abbott) in a bit of a drunken haze, bouncing around a nightclub with headphones in his ears. The camera is constantly kept on his face, at times so close that we could smell the alcohol on his breath. He meanders around the room, with a drink in his hand, saying hello to the few woman that are around. When he leaves, we are surprised to see that it’s morning, a bright new day. James, confused and meandering, hops into a cab and makes his way home, where Shiva is taking place for his recently deceased father. The awkward tension builds as James meets his step-mother for the first time, while his mother (Cynthia Nixon) grieves for the father of her son.
It’s obvious that James has not been a part of many people’s lives other than his mother's and his best friend Nick’s (Scott Mescudi). As his depression lies under the surface, his addictions have increased, he is currently without a job, and when his mother confronts him with his problems, he retreats to Mexico to “get a break from life”. His trip is only a temporary mask on his pain, as he enjoys the sun, and meets a woman named Jayne (Makenzi Leigh). It feels like only seconds have passed when James receives a phone call from his mother telling him her cancer has come back. James takes the next flight back home.
What is excellent about James White is a constant, fluid movement to the films drama. Both directed and written by Mond, what our main character feels and tragically experiences, is calculated. And in these moments, I could not help but reminisce over how life does not stop for someone to prepare for those tragic moments. James is thrusted into the responsibility of taking care of his mother (Cynthia Nixon gives possibly the greatest performance of her career; take notice folks.). He certainly did not ask for this, but as her cancer worsens, Mond reveals the film’s most heartbreaking scene. James carries his mother to the bathroom, and as her weakness stops her from being able to stand, she rests her head on her son’s chest, like a baby to their mother’s breast. James tells a story of the two of them living in his version of a paradise, a place where the bond of love between mother and child is stronger than any form of cancer.
James White is a dramatic success. Performances from Abbott and Nixon are perfection, in one of the more heartbreaking films of 2015. The end feels a bit abrupt, and yet, when I thought about it more, it seemed to have more meaning than just too soon of an ending. There is a reason to everything in James White, and that is because the world is always moving, never stopping, no matter what is thrown at us. Someone like James White must go on.
3 ½ STARS.
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: CHRISTOPHER ABBOTT; CYNTHIA NIXON; SCOTT MESCUDI; RON LIVINGSTON; MAKENZIE LEIGH
DIRECTED BY: JOSH MOND
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Josh Mond's directorial debut encapsulates all the emotions of love, anger, forgiveness, and loss, rolled into one hell of an independent film. James White,
a film about a man in his late 20's who is in the middle of losing all the people that are close to him, is an expression of the stages of emotions a person can experience. For our title character, the weight of life has crashed on top of him. His father just passed away, his mother is in a battle with stage 4 Cancer, and the only comfort he finds is in the bottom of a bottle. Although that may not sound like an uplifting trip to the movies, James White is an honest film, with outstanding performances. It is the kind of film that one experiences emotionally within themselves and the characters on screen.