BFI Flare: Jump, Darling (2021)

Director: Phil Connell

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Starring: Thomas Duplessie, Cloris Leachman, Linda Kash, Jayne Eastwood, Tynomi Banks, Andrew Bushell

When we meet Russell (Thomas Duplessie), he is at a crossroads in his life. He's wanted to become a serious actor, yet while he approaches 30, is left wondering whether those plans will ever come true. Looking for performance kicks as a drag queen, this causes friction with his businessman boyfriend, leaving Russell to escape to the house of his grandma Margaret (Cloris Leachman). While Margaret is in steep decline, fearful of being relegated to a nursing home, Russell embraces a new alter-ego, intent on lighting up the local college bar.

As we meet our lead character, Russell, he's left wondering whether he can achieve his dreams. He has longed to become an actor, although is yet to have a successful audition, and finds solace as a drag queen. This becomes a way to feel fully comfortable in his own skin, while allowing him an outlet to perform for others. Coming at odds with that are the men in his life, as those he engages in a relationship with often make him feel ashamed for his drag career. Thomas Duplessie wonderfully conveys the characters inner struggle, as he finds difficulty in being true to himself.

As Russell arrives at his grandmothers, at the promise of a car she owns, a warm relationship makes itself known as the pair help each other out. In one of her final roles, Cloris Leachman does excellent work as Margaret, who wants to be there for her grandson, even though she's coping with her own problems. Fully aware that her mind is declining, Margaret hates the idea of being sent away to a nursing home. This puts her at odds with Ene, Russell's overprotective mother who believes this is the right solution. Linda Kash does wonderful work portraying the role, as a free spirit who is into astrology, while also big-hearted and caring, as she constantly worries about those she loves. Looming over them all is the spectre of Margaret's husband, a failed artist who took his own life, and only left behind pain.

When the film indulges in musical sequences, these flashy moments are directed with such vibrancy, and the most fantastic points across the film. Led by Duplessie, these energetic high-points showcase Russell when he feels the most alive. The strongest one takes place when Russell is alone in a bar, as the ensuing dance feels like such a powerful release for the character, as he lets loose in his own company. This best exemplifies what Phil Connell has crafted, as the writer and director has made an emotional film about being true to yourself.