Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

The Strange Thing About the Johnsons (Short)

Grade : A+ Year : 2011 Director : Ari Aster Running Time : 28min Genre : , ,
Movie review score
A+

Ari Aster’s film begins with a father (Billy Mayo) walking in on his son masturbating. The awkwardness of that situation is only the tip of the iceberg for this bizarre dark family comedy. The father, Sidney, is a respected poet, and stands by his son, Isaiah (Brandon Greenhouse) as he grows up and gets married. But their connection is not a typical one for a father and son to have, and it comes down to that one day when Sidney walked in on Isaiah. On Isaiah’s wedding day, Joan (Angela Bullock), his mother, finds out the truth of their bond, and it’s a disturbing revelation that threatens to tear the family apart.

I really want to tip toe around spoilers for this film, because a big part of its impact comes from not quite knowing what to expect, but when one of the things the film does so well is shine a light on a disturbing subject like sexual abuse, it’s hard not to point that out. What makes Aster’s film so good, however, isn’t just the subject, but the subversion of roles, in this case, and how the Sidney feels trapped by circumstances, and his love for his son, when it comes to revealing the truth. The performances are all quite good, and really capture the emotions boiling under the surface of this film, which takes its darkest turn at the end, seeing just how obsessed Isaiah has become with his father, and how painful the truth has been on his mother over the years. How those feeling make their way to the forefront after a tragedy is unexpected, and powerfully focused by the director and his actors. You don’t see it coming, and the same can be said for the film.

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