Jojo Rabbit (2019)
Updated: Jan 30
Blending offbeat humour with solemn ideas, Jojo Rabbit cleverly tells a story of love and hope in a setting that has otherwise become infamous for hatred and evil. The film offers a bold and touching retelling of World War II Germany, making a mockery out of Hitler and the Nazis while still elucidating the normalisation and banality of evil and how easily fear can corrupt a country - and even a ten year old boy.
The film tells the story of ten year old Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a blond haired, blue eyed chauvinistic boy living in Nazi Germany. Jojo is guided by his imaginary friend, a comically ludicrous version of Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), until his understanding of the world around him begins to shift after meeting Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a teenage Jewish girl that Jojo's mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) has been sheltering in their home.
While there is no denying that Waititi's take is a polarising one, Jojo Rabbit treats its setting with respect and earnestness - despite the off-centre jokes and a downright goofy Adolf Hitler, played by Waititi himself, the film sharply balances farcical fascists within the gravity of the context in which it operates.
Jojo Rabbit features a great main and supporting cast, including comedians Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant. Scarlett Johansson does a great job as Rosie, Jojo's compassionate, quick-witted and secretly anti-Nazi mother, and - while not as great of a role model for a young Jojo - Sam Rockwell also excels in his performance as somewhat unhinged Hitler Youth Camp leader Captain Klenzendorf.
There is no denying Davis's brilliantly affecting performance as Jojo, which exhibited the young actor's perfect grasp of his character, portraying our protagonist as headstrong, frustrating at times and overall kind at heart. Davis's performance has not gone unnoticed, having already secured him a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination alongside actors Eddie Murphy, Daniel Craig, Leonardo DiCaprio and Taron Egerton.
Telling a story set in an earnest time in history from the perspective of a child is a risky move on Waititi's part as it would be in any case, but it ultimately pays off. Whimsical and vivid cinematography and settings show a reimagining of Nazi Germany from the radicalised perspective of a boy too naive to understand what being "massively into swastikas" means. Much of the tension throughout Jojo Rabbit deals with Jojo's growth from this naivety into human decency, one of which - at many moments - seems to come at the cost of the other.
Jojo Rabbit is an overall warm and tender anti-hate satire that strikes a clever balance between hysterical and deadly serious. Its fresh, offbeat methods may make it a movie that isn't for everyone, but its message of hope, compassion and the turning of one's heart is one that can be understood and appreciated by all.