Coming-of-age films center around a certain time in your life, but that feeling of wonder and uncertainty never quite leaves you, no matter your age. JUMBO takes an unusual premise for a familiar analogy about being true to yourself, albeit with mixed results.
JUMBO follows Jeanne (Noémie Merlant), a young amusement park worker who becomes enamored with the newly installed ride. Fascinated by its appearance and movement, Jeanne recreates Jumbo’s structure on a miniature scale and sneaks out to see it at night.
JUMBO brings its titular character to life by making its cast believe in it – Jeanne, above all odds, knows she is in love with the ride and cannot deny who she is or how she feels. Merlant puts everything she has into making us see Jumbo the way Jeanne sees it, and it creates the backbone of the film. Combined with gorgeous cinematography that’ll remind you of the freeness of childhood, JUMBO’s central relationship is strong enough to survive its atypical premise.
Though JUMBO has its light scenes, the film is a drama and does not let you forget it. As we have seen in similarly plotted queer stories for years, Jeanne’s love is not an easy one. She is treated as odd before being directly confronted by her mother and her boss, the latter of whom sees the ride as a liability in their place of work.
JUMBO has these small shining moments that remind you why life is worth living, but it’s uneven compared to the self-consciousness of the rest of the film. When the credits roll, it’s not cleanly happy or sad, but it’s not quite satisfying, either.
Finding yourself is animalistic and wild, and the emotional strength that Jeanne and Jumbo share together, unfortunately, does not extend to all parts of the film. Merlant is the standout performer in a story that more often than not, tends to drag its feet.
You can now watch Zoé Wittock’s JUMBO on the ARROW platform.