*NOTE: This review is going to be a CAPSULE review, which means it’ll be a tight, quick critique of the film as opposed to the more in-depth reviews I usually do.
How do we suppress pain? That is the question that is asked in Jumpman, Ivan I. Tverdovskiy’s drama that played in competition at the 2018 Chicago International Film Festival.
Denis (Denis Vlasenko) has lived his entire life in an orphanage-like children’s home after his mother Oksana (Anna Slyu) left him there when he was a new-born. Now, sixteen years later, Oksana returns to take him away from the children’s home and start off fresh. But what seems like a new beginning for the two turns dark, as Oksana exploits Denis for money and bring him into a corrupt legal system.
Oksana exposes Denis because he claims to not feel pain. He is tortured at the children’s home, yet never complains about the pain, regardless of what happens to him. Oksana and her group of friends see Denis’ “gift” as an opportunity to make a lot of money, as they are hired companies to have Denis get hit by cars that belong to competitors of the companies. But does Denis really have this “gift” of never feeling pain? It’s never really clear throughout the film, as Denis never complains about the injuries he sustains, but we see the damage it does to his body and, thanks to a break-out performance from Vlasenko, we see what it does to him emotionally. Does Denis actually have a gift of never getting hurt, or does he do this as a way to feel something? He’s loved by no one and even when he’s back with his mother, she never fully invests in being his mother, but only sees him as a financial gain, so the pain of these stunts makes up for the feeling of nothing he’s been feeling his whole life. The movie doesn’t dive into this nearly enough, but it is incredibly interesting to think about.
Jumpman is a quick 90 minutes, but I wished it went longer so that it could dive more into Denis’ emotions. Though incredibly thought provoking, Jumpman really only scratches the surface of what the movie is about, which ultimately leads to an unfulfilling, yet interesting film.
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