Sundance 2020: Jumbo

Nomie Merlant appears in Jumbo by Zoé Wittock, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Jumbo is one of the stories that are stranger than fiction and yet this coming-of-age drama is surprisingly inspired by a true story.

Jeanne (Noémie Merlant) is a shy young woman that works late nights at the local amusement park.  While Jeanne’s mom would prefer that she meet a man already, she’d rather be doing other things.  For instance, Jeanne is always building miniature theme park rides in her bedroom.

When the park gets a new Tilt-A-Whirl ride, she takes to it immediately and starts referring to the ride as “Jumbo.”  She could call the ride by its given name of “Move It” but decides that it does not fit the ride’s personality.  All the while, Jeanne’s mom disagrees with her choices.  Moms, am I right?  If you can’t find the perfect person to give them grandchildren, they’ll never be satisfied.  Or is this only applicable to Jewish moms?!?  I digress.  The point of the matter is mother and daughter will never see eye to eye.

For the second year in a row, actress Noémie Merlant finds herself starring in a love story.  Well, that is if you can call it that.  It isn’t the typical love story between two humans.  No, this one stars a human and a machine.  No, not the machines that seek to take over the world.  After all, this isn’t a Terminator film!  What’s most intriguing about this film is that it is actually based on a true story.  I know, right?!?  It’s one thing for people to fall in love with animals but to have this sort of relationship with an inanimate object is simply unheard of.  I’m not denying that it’s out of the realm of possibilities.

Zoé Wittock hits it out of the park in her debut feature.  There are so many technical feats to appreciate in watching this film.  The production design alone is top-notch and something that one would not really expect from independent films.  Maybe things are changing in the world.  I digress.  Anyway, the fact that the camera manages to keep up with the ride is an achievement in its own right.  However, the lighting alone is really where the design work takes things to the next level!  There are over 160 lights on the ride!

Jumbo may feature the strangest of love stories but audiences will certainly be entertained.  If a distributor is smart, they’ll come calling for Jumbo soon after the premiere.

CAST:  Noémie Merlant, Emmanuelle Bercot, Sam Louwyck

Jumbo holds its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.