Taika Waititi crashed back into cinemas this month with his Toronto Film Festival ‘People’s Choice Award’ winner, Jojo Rabbit. The story follows Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a young boy living in Nazi Germany, his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), and Jojo’s imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). As World War Two seems to be nearing its end, staunch believer in Nazi Germany, Jojo, struggles to accept that his beloved Adolf may lose the war.
His belief system is then plunged into turmoil after he discovers a young girl hiding within his walls, a young Jewish girl. Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) forces Jojo to question his beliefs, and shows him that his way of thinking is not only outdated, but has a completely ludicrous logic to it. After all, Jojo and herself are really no different at all and his toxic interpretation of Jewish culture is all proven to be completely false lies, fed to him by his beloved Adolf.
This satirical look into hateful thinking and the prejudice at play during these years only goes to highlight the ridiculous nature of such thinking and reminds us that it is unfortunately not too far from the divided world that we exist in today. With everything that is going on in the world, Waititi is offering a small antidote, a heartwarming offering that sheds some hope into what can feel like a very dark and divided world at times.
Davis is perfect in the role of Jojo, a small boy who you can’t not find loveable as he searches for his place in the world and what his beliefs will be within it. Johansson is captivating as Rosie. She represents an extremely interesting aspect of history that I had not previously given thought to. As a woman who does not believe in the ideals of Nazi Germany, she is unable to raise her son as she would like, as to do so would place their safety at risk. So, in order to survive Nazi Germany, she must allow her son to believe the lies of the regime and to, in turn, become a Nazi. She masterfully depicts the antagonising turmoil that this must have caused as she ultimately has to hope that her son will turn out to be the loving boy that he was before the regime landed on their doorstep. McKenzie is thoroughly believable as Elsa, bringing just the right amount of rage and vulnerability to the character. A special mention should go to Yorki (Archie Yates) who plays Jojo’s sweet best friend, the epitome of innocence. Sam Rockwell is, as per usual, brilliant as Klenzendorf, a German Captain.
All in all, this film is thoroughly believable, funny, heartbreaking and a more than a refreshing take on the events of the war. It does what comedy should always do and yet is so often forgotten about: make us laugh while making us think about something important.
The world is changing now in a way that is not too dissimilar to that of World War Two Germany and Waititi is not only drawing attention to that, but reminding us that hate is so stupid, futile, and above all needless as ultimately we all want the same thing: to be loved and to have love.
Jojo Rabbit is currently playing at City Screen: https://www.picturehouses.com/cinema/city-screen-picturehouse