Cast your mind back to the beginning of 2020 and you might recall the release of Little Joe – the Jessica Hausner directed sci-fi/horror movie, starring Ben Whishaw and Emily Beecham. In the film, a team of scientists create a new breed of plant that can make people happy, only things don’t quite go to plan and the plant is soon spreading a mind-altering virus.
Little Joe made its debut at Cannes Film Festival in May 2019, but didn’t arrive in the UK until February 2020, where it received a limited theatrical release… just as COVID-19 turned the world upside down. Remember that?
I had planned on seeing Little Joe at my local art house cinema back in Feb/March, but the thought of watching a movie about a virus-spreading plant just seemed like bad timing. So, I abandoned my plans and waited for Little Joe‘s home video/rental release.
Flash forward to today, and I have just watched the movie courtesy of the BFI Player. I signed up for a free 7-day trial (via Amazon Prime), and gave it a watch.
This isn’t a plug for the BFI Player by the way, I am just letting you know that should you wish to, you can watch Little Joe today at no cost (just sign up, then cancel the trial). But I guess your desire to watch Little Joe might depend on how well this review goes, so I had better get on with it.
From the opening moments of Little Joe, I was hooked. This is a great picture. A really great picture.
Little Joe is a beautifully shot film, it features a stellar cast, a haunting soundtrack, and it is incredibly creepy. Forget the Triffids, forget Audrey II, the plants in this movie (collectively called Little Joe) are truly the stuff of nightmares.
And I’m going to put this out there right now – in general, I do find plants a little freaky. I’m not saying I get spooked by succulents, but from time to time I do wonder if my aloe vera is going to rise out of its pot and scold me for over watering it!
Anyway, I’m digressing. The plants in this movie are creepy, the film is creepy, there’s lots of creepiness going on.
But alongside the creepiness is also an intriguing story. One that manages to blend elements of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives and The Thing, with a dash of domestic drama.
Little Joe is as much about a mind-altering plant, as it is about a single mother called Alice (Emily Beecham), who is struggling in her personal life. Throughout the story, Alice becomes disconnected from her son, she seeks solace in a therapist, and gets romantically involved with a male colleague who is ultimately not right for her.
Alice’s problems form the backbone of the story, ensuring their is plenty of
meat on the bone petals on the stem. This isn’t just a tale about plants taking over the world, it is a story with fleshed out characters, and an eye on the problems of day-to-day life.
I obviously don’t want to give too much away, but if you like the aforementioned Invasion of the Body Snatchers, then you will like Little Joe. Don’t expect jump scares, or fast-paced editing, but do expect a well thought out chiller, with strong performances, especially from Beecham.
Oh, and I should also mention the film has one of the best colour-palettes in a modern movie – it’s just so damn pretty! So if you do give Little Joe a couple of hours of your time (and you should), be sure to watch it on the best telly in the house – preferably with the lights down low, and as far away from your house plants as possible.
Seriously, don’t turn your back on them for a minute!
On reflection, I don’t think it would have been too traumatic for me to watch Little Joe back in Feb/March, but I do think the film’s arrival in 2020 is certainly timely. The world is experiencing a huge shift right now, with everyone having to get used to acting and thinking in a different way, and this is something which Little Joe touches upon, albeit from a different angle.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review about Little Joe. For more movie-related posts, check out the recommended reads below or take a look-see around It’s A Stampede!.