Jump, Darling Movie Review- BFI Flare Festival 2021

Jump, Darling

Written and Directed by Phil Connell

Starring: Cloris Leachman and Thomas Duplessie

Kicking off this year’s BFI FLARE festival is this funny, charming tale about a drag queen and his grandmother. Written and directed by Phil Connell, his feature debut no less and starring the late Cloris Leachman and welcoming newcomer Thomas Duplessie. 

Awkward reunions

Jump, Darling is the story of rookie drag queen Russell who, post break up escapes the city to his Grandmother’s house in the country. However, his grandmother’s health is in a steady decline and this may not be the easy stop-gap he had in mind. 

Personal journeys and a new kinship

Whilst Jump, Darling is concerned with the idea of transformation and finding yourself, it’s also about finding kinship. The characters, especially Russell, lean some harsh truths and life lessons. However, what starts as a bit of an awkward reunion between the two characters, grows and develops beautifully. These characters are each fighting their own battles, but also start to fight for each other. Russell helps his grandmother in her fight to stay in her home, in return she teaches him some hard lessons and in time inspires him, to well… jump, darling. 

Russell in his drag queen make up, on the stage, blurred men in background, blue and purple coloured lighting

Cinematic scenes and incredible song choices

It’s not just the dynamic of this relationship that makes this film really glow, but both the soundtrack and the cinematography. The scenes in the bar and the drag shows, soundtrack by the likes of the Years and Years and Robyn had me longing for a night out. They gave me huge uni flashbacks of just going out with your friends and dancing all night. The drag show scenes are filmed with such a ‘music video’ feel, that just works so well. The film is presented with such life and vibrancy. 

Razor-sharp barbs and a solid delivery

Cloris’ Margaret steals every scene that she is in. She is at home just floating listlessly throughout her days whilst fighting her daughter’s insistence that she go into a nursing home. Whilst with Russell, trying to find some normalcy in her days, she manages to deliver some razor-sharp barbs. Some of which will make you laugh out loud. This is a woman who’s lived through so many experiences and is not afraid of the inevitable end. 

Margaret looking wide eyed, older women in a nightgown, shoulder length grey hair, looking wistfully

Rebirth and a new direction in Jump, Darling

The film is perfectly pitched at 90minutes and through Connell’s careful direction the pacing is relaxed yet doesn’t dawdle. It matches well with the tone of the film. Whilst I would’ve liked more of Margret and her life over some of the slower scenes with Russell. Whilst Jump, Darling is certainly left on a bittersweet note, it is still somewhat beautiful. These two characters have learned from one another and especially Russell who gets a sort of rebirth or a new start at the very least. Jump, Darling doesn’t dwell on the sentiments or in the past. It leaves us feeling hopeful for the future.

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