★★★★ James White | Amazing performances and a very original story make ‘James White’ a must see film.
White, played to perfection by Christopher Abbott, is a young man who’s just lost a father he was never very close to. He’s into drugs, booze, and does’ have a job. His mother, Gail White (played by Cynthia Nixon in her best performance to date), is dying of cancer. So twenty-something James has all this to deal with, along with sorting out his own life.
James lives with his mom in a one-bedroom apartment in New York City. He sleeps on the couch, doesn’t have a job, and is burdened with the role of being his mom’s caretaker. He wants to get away for a while to clear his mind and promises his mom that when he gets back refreshed he will start looking for work. So he heads to Mexico with best friend Nick (Scott Mescudi). While there, he meets Jayne (Makenzie Leigh) who also happens to be from NYC, and they take a liking to each other. While in Mexico, James receives a call saying that his mother is getting sicker and sicker. So he heads back to NYC not knowing that his mom’s doctor recommended hospice care and not hospital care for her, she’s close to death and never really told James the truth about her condition. It’s up to James to deal with his mom’s condition while at the same time struggling to make sense of it all.
Abbott boldly portrays James as a young man in emotional anguish over not only his mother’s ailing health but also his lack of trying to be someone. Abbott, who is known as Charlie in the television show ‘Girls,’ is amazing. He’s poignant and realistic as James, it’s an amazing performance. Nixon is fantastic as James’ dying mother who starts deteriorating right before his eyes, all too quickly. Their relationship is a strong one, and we feel the slow loss of Gail as much as James does.
‘James White’ is Josh Mond’s directorial debut, and it’s an amazing one. He shoots the actors at very close range, enough so that we can see the lines on their faces. It’s a technique that allows the film to feel more emotional and real. James White is inspired by Mond’s own story of caring for his sick mother. The film has done the festival circuit where it’s won a few awards and has been nominated for several independent film awards. It’s an incredibly nuanced film that deserves a look.