Alice (Emily Beecham) works as a plant breeder whose genetically-modified flowers can change the mood of its owner. Convinced of its healing properties, she secretly brings one home as a present for her son. However overnight her plants instantly go into full bloom, killing the neighbouring plants with their pollen. Has Alice acted in haste or does her “happy plant” have a wider range of emotions than even she realises?
… a scientific drama whose intrigue sadly fails to flower.
Director Jessica Hausner’s ‘Little Joe’ is a scientific drama whose intrigue sadly fails to flower. Set inside the washed-out pastels of a commercial laboratory, Hausner deploys characters to tell us of Alice’s single-mindedness. Unwilling to act on the affections of fellow researcher (Ben Whishaw) whilst listening to the polite remonstrations of her son Joe, scenes of Alice with a psychotherapist (Lindsay Duncan) are dropped into ’convince’ us of her plight. However in terms of revelatory scenes, ‘Little Joe’ has no emotional proof to offer.
Instead, relying upon a Japanese-themed score to hammer every plot point home, ‘Little Joe’s’ drilling ping-pong ball motif quickly renders its most dramatic scenes almost comedic. In an attempt to cross-pollinate the zombie-like subtext of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ with a starchily-pressed anti-pharma drama, ‘Little Joe’s’ ambition very quickly becomes starved of subtlety.
Refusing any attempt at any tension or genuine intrigue, ‘Little Joe’ instead hangs its fate on the wider implications of Alice’s failures. Whilst it can be said that Emily Beecham, Ben Wishaw and Kerry Fox all deliver solid performances, none of them can escape the yawning reality of a story with no pay-off.
Left with only conspicuously-placed jars of marmite in its staff canteen, ‘Little Joe’ becomes a film with little or no heat to offer. Linear to the point of predictability, this is one anti-septic addition that would have better served Dr. Who than your local cineplex.