Jonathan has a very ordered, very precise life. He runs, he works, he cooks, he sleeps. The only thing odd about his life are the videos he leaves for his brother. Jonathan (Ansel Elgort) is clearly the buttoned-down brother; the other one a little wild, a little loose. But they’re close. They’re very close because they have to be. The two brothers occupy the same body. Jonathan works it during the day while Jon (also Elgort, duh) takes the nighttime shift. It’s a “thing” apparently, according to Dr. Patricia Clarkson, and let’s face it, I WILL buy anything that lady’s selling.
There’s occasionally a little tension between the brothers because in order to make their arrangement work, they have to live by certain rules. And as you might guess, Jonathan’s a better rule follower than is Jon. When Jon breaks a cardinal rule, ie, gets a girlfriend, the two start to pull apart, and while distance between siblings is usually a normal thing, between these two it’s going to start to get very, very complicated.
There’s a dark filament running its electric current throughout the movie, and I have to say, I liked it. I like movies that are puzzles, and I’m always four steps ahead, or I think I am, trying to shoehorn pieces in to slots that are maybe not the right fit. The brothers are superclose, inhabiting the same body as they do, but at the same time, they’ve never technically met. How’s that for a concept? Now imagine the relationship you have with your own sibling. Do you fight sometimes? Give each other the silent treatment? The thing is, when Jon and Jonathan fight, they virtually disappear from each other’s lives, but at the same time their bodies are subject to whatever the other does during his shift. It’s crazy.
Ansel Elgort is commanding in dual roles, though this movie, as you can tell by the title, belongs to Jonathan. The story is told only through his side of the equation; glimpses of his brother come only through the videos, and the consequences to Jonathan’s waking life. I tend to like these bold, “big idea” movies and this one worked for me. Not in a big way. It doesn’t quite live up to Jonathan’s potential, or even Jon’s. But it cooks with some really interesting ingredients. It has a sci-fi premise but a character study feel. Jonathan can’t quite fill the big shoes of its own promise, but I like that it tried, and I like how it tried, and I like the twisty pretzel shapes my brain’s been doing trying to straighten it all out.