Joji - A straightforward but haunting drama with terrific performances!
Dileesh Pothan's Joji opens with a note saying that it's inspired from Shakespeare's Macbeth. I guess your take about the film (at least to a degree) would depend on your familiarity (or the lack of it) with Macbeth. As someone who isn't very familiar with the source material, I guess Joji possibly was a little more tense than it probably might have been, if I had the characters of Macbeth at the back of my mind. But that said, Joji is a film that is bound to be an immersive experience even if you knew the entire plot beforehand.
Joji is as much a film about its titular character as it is about the household of the character. Dileesh Pothan isn't interested in explaining the backstories of the individuals of the house but a lot of what happens in the film would give us a sense of what they might have been through. The Joji household appears like a close knit family on the surface but they could also possibly be the perfect example for a dysfunctional family.
Kuttappan Panachel, a septuagenarian is the head of the house and has a firm control over everything. No one dares to say a word against him. A health issue has him get close to death and he recovers and is now bound to a wheelchair. Joji (Fahadh Faasil), his youngest son (among 3 brothers) is a loser in the eyes of his dad. We get to know that he hasn't been able to live up to the expectations of his father. And most of this discomfort between the two is established very less through dialogues and predominantly through the body language of the characters. Joji is always seen wearing a mask (figuratively) in the presence of others. Once inside his room, he fumes and lets go of all the pent up frustration. Now, with his father bound to the wheelchair, he hopes that he can get more control over his life (and possibly a part of his wealth). But the old man isn't budging.
Much like Dileesh Pothan's earlier two films, Joji is built on a simple premise but this one is a much darker film. There is a chilling tension right through. This is such a simple as well as a complex film. Simple as in, the plot is straightforward with just a handful of characters. But no one is a simple character. Each one of them seems to have a troubled past and though they seem to be normal on the surface, you fear that they could explode at any point. And what a masterstroke to have the film set in our times ( the covid period ). The physical mask keeps reiterating the hidden face of the characters.
It would be unfair to just single out Fahaadh because every actor is in top form here. But it is amazing to see how he makes these eccentric characters his own. And his physical transformation (he does look very young in this slim avatar roaming around in those shorts) is very relevant to the character. Baburaj as the imposing but vulnerable Jomon (seems to be the only one operating with a conscience) is terrific.
This is such a superbly shot film with a haunting musical score. The atmospherics just sucks you in. If you are looking for a detailed reasoning and justification or want to know why the characters ended up being the way they are, Joji might leave you wanting for more. But this isn't a film that is going to spell it out for you. Dileesh Pothan isn't narrating a story as much as he is putting you inside Joji's household.
Dileesh Pothan serves yet another terrific and minimalistic experience.