The title character of Felix Thompson’s brutally honest debut feature, King Jack, may be a delinquent teenager, and life in the small town where he and his brother, Tom (Christian Madsen), and mother, Karen (Erin Davie), all live may be bleak. But this is thankfully no wallow in working-class miserablism.
When Jack (Charlie Plummer) finds himself forced to look after his shy cousin, Ben (Cory Nichols), over a weekend, he develops a tentative fondness for the kid as they hang out around town. Their initial scenes together exude a wealth of warmth, humor, and life — especially a game of truth or dare they play with a couple of local girls that is as painfully frank as it is funny.
Jack and Ben’s relationship, though, is ultimately secondary to Jack’s own coming of age. We discover that Jack is in some ways responsible for his own loneliness, denying the love and affection of others by frequently puffing himself up to be tougher and more mature than he actually is. He’s introduced spray-painting an obscenity onto older bully Shane’s (Danny Flaherty) garage door, and that inciting moment leads to an escalating series of violent incidents that exposes the inner coward behind the hardened exterior and puts his burgeoning bond with Ben to the test.
When Jack eventually learns the value of being less selfish, it’s a tribute to Thompson’s humane sensitivity to character detail that its concluding jolt of affirmation feels fully, inspirationally earned.
Written and directed by Felix Thompson
Well Go USA
Opens June 10, Cinema Village