Jessica Hausner’s first English language film is an intriguing, consistently compelling and ever so slightly creepy, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. With Little Joe, she mixes style, horticulture and humour in this unique exploration of genre cinema, group dynamics, and the possibility of the fantastic in an increasingly technocratic world.
Emily Beecham (who was awarded Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for this role) stars as Alice, a single mother and scientist who, along with her lab partner Chris (Ben Whishaw), is conducting a series of experiments to create a new species of plant, a crimson flower whose scent induces a state of bliss for those who come in contact with it. But, of course, their happy-making plant, nicknamed ‘Little Joe’, turns out to have an agenda of its own, and their potential cash cow seems increasingly like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Everything about Hausner’s film – the inventive script, the crisp, fluid camerawork, the use of Teiji Ito’s haunting music and the carefully nuanced performances from both leads – is a model of expressive precision, showing an astute grasp of the psychological and social environment of the workplace, family, parenthood and gender relations.
Austria, UK, Germany, France