Alice (Beecham) is a senior plant breeder who has designed a plant that gives its owner happiness through its pollen, but only if it is talked to and looked after. Alice affectionately names it after her son Joe (Connor), who lives with her after the separation from his father. Joe’s loneliness is present when Alice’s guilt with her dedication to work surfaces. The story takes a turn when Alice decides to take one of the flowers home as a gift to her son.
LITTLE JOE successfully integrates all the filmic elements of science fiction and drama to create a stringent and cold atmosphere of suspense and uneasiness. The opening sequence introduces us to the plants. The soundtrack playing tribal wind instruments and xylophone sounds which gives an air of remoteness. Reminiscent of early 60s science fiction music. The audience knows that these plants will be the centre of the story. They are a vibrant red that looks like a Dr. Suess tree. The hothouse is a crisp white and the workers wear blocks of colour, with teals and blues. The characters introduced, Alice and Chris, speak precisely and hold themselves stiffly but professionally.
The introduction sums up the film precisely. The suspense and surrealness of the story are shown through the constant feeling of everything being ‘slightly off’. So slight that there could be nothing wrong at all. The creative way that the cinematographer, Martin Gschlacht took advantage of the ‘elephant in the room’, which of course is Little Joe; was done brilliantly. Slow movements where the viewer finds themselves looking into the in-between spaces make the presence of the flower there without physically being there. Large open spaces show the 60s inspired costume and set dressing.
The colour-blocking and clean sets brought warmth to the sterile feel of the characters and atmosphere. It provided a clean slate for the slight changes to shine through. Alice is clearly our protagonist and is shown visually with her costume design. With her red hair, she almost looks like the flower she has designed. This red colour is used throughout in small amounts. Showing its insidious nature and presence. The simple use of colour in this film elevated the narrative and complimented the amazing acting and camerawork.
LITTLE JOE shows a mother’s psychological journey through the changes in her life and apprehension in choosing herself over others. She is dedicated to her job and loves her son, but does she have to choose? And does Little Joe choose for her? This film was brilliantly executed, technically and narratively. While the story is a ‘slow burn’ the creepy and unique atmosphere keeps you engaged until the very end.