Joshua (1 hr 46 mins, 2007)
Joshua (Jacob Kogan) is one creepy, self-proclaimed weird kid. He is a smart, talented boy; introverted and emotionless, a stark contrast to his young, vibrant and fun-loving parents. He knows it, his parents know it; it’s the big weird elephant in the room. But they put on a good act of a happy family, even happier with the birth of their new daughter, Lily. He is a curious observer to the cheerful banter, cooing and good will that is brought on by the new addition to the family. Head tilted, face void of expression, he is the child who is choosing an insect for torture in the backyard.
Things go wrong slowly, as Joshua tests the waters with an upset stomach to disperse the family sing-a-long that he excludes himself from. He gathers intel on himself as a baby, finding old footage of his mother, Abby ( Verma Farmiga ), as she unravels with his constant crying. Baby Lily soon follows suite, incessantly wailing and driving Abby to the brink again.
At his school music recital, Joshua sabotages his brilliantly practiced piece to play a twisted, off-tune version of Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star, much to his parents and uncle’s dismay. And then he passes out. Soon after, he donate all his toys, and becomes obsessed with Egyptian burial traditions, practicing on his remaining teddy bear. I’m not a parent, but any kid that starts to cut his teddy bear up to embalm him for “a glorious afterlife” is going to spend some time with the nice doctors. Problem is, his parents are busy dealing with Abby’s mounting depression, Brad’s demanding job, a new baby, and religious in-laws. Guess they’re not so happy after all.
Joshua is also the prince of stealth. He continually pops up behind doors, lurks around in the dark, and goes out for walks, with the dog or by himself. And yes the thought of the family dog, Buster, with that kid gave me the willies. Buster unfortunately dies, and Joshua’s father is distraught and sobs over the poor dog’s body. Joshua sees this, and like a robot, takes in the emotion and mimics his father’s sorrow. Again, might want to take the kid in for a tune up, as Brad is taken aback by his son’s odd display.
Things get worse, as Joshua works on eliminating obstacles. His goals are still not transparent. World domination? Gonna call your Children of the Corn cousins once mommy and daddy are gone? Earlier in the movie, Joshua asks his father Brad (Sam Rockwell) if he’s ever felt weird about him, his “weird son”. Brad replies that he would love him no matter what. Not so fast, Brad! Little Joshua has a list and you’re on it! After a game of hide-and-seek with Joshua goes wrong, Abby looses it and is sent to Sunshine Hills for an extended stay. Brad and his robot son are left together. Now, Brad is an eternal optimist. Happy guy, loves his wife; life couldn’t be better, even when his wife is going crazy and his son is, well, a weirdo. He takes some time off of work, and with the help of his mother, looks after the kids. Things will be fine, just fine. Until Nana falls down the stairs on a visit to the museum and dies. In the company of Joshua of course. Brad sees what his son is actually up to and starts to crack, wiring cupboards shut, and locking himself and baby Lily in at night. After finally calling a child psychologist, it’s revealed that Joshua is a classic case of abuse. Stunned, Brad tells Joshua he is going to be sent away to school as a last-ditch attempt to regain some sanity, and to rid himself of this conniving devil spawn, but unfortunately that doesn’t wash with Joshua. This kid is angling his magnifying glass over the bug, and the sun has just hit its squirming body. And he will watch without expression, as this bug slowly roasts. The only time he will genuinely smile is when his goal is reached, and trust me, he brilliantly executes his plan to that end.
I won’t spoil the end for you, dear reader, because I think everyone should see this movie. I really liked the tension created with the scoring of discordant piano notes. Each scene painstakingly reveals truths as we watch, but I found it a tad too long. However, it is the best birth control. It covers bad seed kids, post partum depression, clueless husbands, and self-righteous in-laws. All the things you want to avoid if you can. Verma was great as the young mother trying to cope with a predisposition to depression and a creepy kid. And I love, love, love Sam Rockwell. Have you ever noticed he must dance, or at the very least shimmy, in every film he’s in? He is great as the forgiving, peace-making husband and father, that gets a huge dose of reality. The kid that played Joshua blew me away. I’m convinced he’s a robot. An evil robot. Just wait until you hear him sing his special song to his Uncle Ned. So very creepy! The song was written by Dave Matthews for the film and is called “The Fly”. Oh yeah, and there are a few guinea pigs in Joshua. Except these aren’t as lucky as my Asphyx friend.
I also have to note some veterans that had small roles. Celia Weston plays Brad’s religious mother Hazel who meets her untimely demise during the museum visit. You instantly recognize her face as she has a long list of T.V. and film appearances. Quite the chameleon and a great actress. Michael McKean plays Chester, Brad’s sharpshooting, ballbusting boss. We all remember him of course from the classic Spinal Tap, and his tremendous work in comedy, so it was nice to see him in a more dramatic role. And Dallas Roberts plays Ned, Joshua’s understanding and lovable uncle and brother to Abby. I first noticed him in the now cancelled AMC series Rubicon. He was amazing in that, and he is now on The Walking Dead as Milton Mamet, a researcher for the Governor. Love him and glad his career is going strong.
Most Memorable Line: When poor Buster dies suspiciously, Brad questions his wife Abby about what the dog was fed. Unravelled and overwhelmed with the crying Lily, she snaps, “Every dog has his day and Buster had his shitty, fucking day!…join the club.”
Favourite Scene: Joshua went on mysterious, solitary walks. On one occasion, he sits in the park and a vagrant comes up to him, begging for money. Joshua stares blankly at him and offers 5 dollars if he can throw a rock at the beggar. What a sweetheart!