I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening of Jojo Rabbit in London as a +1 for my established film-reviewing dad (Darkmatters). And just… Wow. This film is such a treat, such a pandemonium on your emotions, and utterly unforgettable. The second it finished I wished it would start all over again.
Taika Waititi’s ‘anti-hate satire’ does everything right. It tells the story of ‘Jojo’ Johannes, a 10-year-old Aryan boy born in the heart of Nazi Germany. The end of the second world war is approaching, but that doesn’t mean xenophobia is any less prevalent – and Jojo has been brought up in and around it, meaning he fancies himself a Nazi soldier himself. This includes delusions about ‘demon’ Jews with wings, tails and fangs, obsessing over being a soldier and fighting and above all, an idolization of Adolf Hitler. The latter has taken its toll a little more than the others; shown through his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi himself). Jojo Rabbit follows Jojo and his imaginary friend as he tries to navigate life in this environment, and wrestles with his own conscience about the Nazi hate he has been raised to believe. This takes a dramatic turn when he discovers a Jewish girl hiding in the walls of his home…
First and foremost, this film is a satire; a comedy, albeit incredulously dark. It doesn’t shy away from its source material, including many horrifying details of the Nazi regime, all shown through the eyes of our 10-year-old protagonist. It is really funny, so consistent with its beautifully written quips and Rebel Wilson shining as, well, Rebel Wilson does. The comedic timing is perfect, and will either have you belly laughing or hesitantly stifling a giggle as one of its unacceptably dark jokes plays out.
When you’re not laughing, you’re crying, or smiling, or gasping, or recoiling with shock. There’s not an emotion you won’t feel, or a reaction you won’t experience. This film plays with your heart, crushing you with despair before lifting you up with glee. Jojo’s not-so-innocent naivety makes way for shocking truths which rattle the viewer as much as they affect him. He experiences hope, anger, loss, love, all underpinned by a 10-year-old’s curiosity as to whether there is more to discover than what he’s been taught.
The all-star cast is perfect. Taika Waititi plays a perfect caricature of Hitler, whilst Scarlett Johanssen (as Jojo’s mother), Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell and Stephen Marchant all support wonderfully in their respective roles as Nazis. Thomasin McKenzie is brilliant as the Jewish girl Elsa, but the star of the show is Roman Griffin Davis, who dazzles with his believable, extremely likeable presence on-screen as Jojo. He gives a faultless performance and, as the story rests on his shoulders, carries it with aplomb.
Now on to the visuals, which as with everything else I’ve described, are wonderful. Rich, colourful settings of wartime Germany fill our screen, their simplicity juxtaposing well with the eventful narrative. Green fields, dark forests, multicoloured streets and rich inside settings provide a really nice backdrop for the events taking place, staying firmly in the history of the context of the film but with dashes of artistry to bring it all to life.
Overall, this film is a lot of fun, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. It’s darkly funny, immaculately acted, filmed and written, but will also leave you with deep, serious thoughts about the second world war and Nazism through its source material. I’ll be paying to go and see it again when it’s out in the UK!