It is a case of fairground attraction in more ways than one in Zoe Wittock‘s fantastical romance Jumbo.
Noemie Merlant (Portrait Of A Lady On Fire) is the painfully shy and awkward Jeanne. A young woman who lives with her brash mother but finds solace working at an amusement park. One day she finds happiness connecting to the park’s latest ride Jumbo. Sparks fly in what is easily the oddest love story since The Shape Of Water.
With a central concept as crazy as this, woman falls in love with fairground ride, the film’s ultimate success lies in the execution.
What does work is the performance of Merlant. After breaking hearts with her doomed romance in Portrait, she is once again able to draw audiences in through her empathetic performance. A social outcast. From not only society but her own family, the only connection she has with an inanimate machine.
This leads to some visually stunning sequences involving a white space and black machine oil that are reminiscent of Under The Skin.
The issue here is that the love and beauty is just skin deep. There is not much going on under the hood. Wherein The Shape Of Water, although both characters were mute, they were both able to express emotions. Here the attraction is one-sided, with Jumbo only communicating through flashing lights… if at all. While one can wish for Jeanne’s happiness, it is difficult to invest in their relationship.
The film may strive for a message of tolerance and acceptance but it is let down by rushed and unsatisfying conclusion. Sort of like a theme park ride that has a fantastic build up but then the actual ride is over too quickly and ultimately a disappointment.
Director: Zoe Wittock
Stars: Noemie Merlant, Emmanuelle Bercot, Bastien Bouillon
Runtime: 93 minutes