One of the greatest and most overlooked features of Netflix is it’s ability to recommend movies. Nine years ago or so, when we signed up for the service, that was still a selling point, but since then, somehow that part of the business seems to be rarely used by people who I’ve talked to about it. And I’m not sure why.
It’s an amazing tool, especially for someone like me who doesn’t pay that much attention to upcoming movies and doesn’t hear about a lot of great movies that come and go without even registering a blip on my radar.
Jesus Henry Christ is a movie that, up until a few weeks ago when I put it in my queue, I’d never heard of. It’s an independent film, made with very few stars. And I really wonder if it had any kind of marketing behind it at all.
I’ll be honest: I initially didn’t want this as my movie for now, because there’s another one I want to see more that was actually ahead of it, but not in stock yet. So this was a movie that I just needed to get through to get to the movie that I really wanted. But this was well worth it.
The basic plot is this: Henry is a 10-year-old genius who was conceived via in-vitro fertilization with sperm from an anonymous donor. His mother was left by age 13 to care for her widowed father after bizarre accidents killed her mother and twin brothers. Another brother left for Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, and the last brother died of AIDS in the 1980s.
And now that he’s 10, Henry has decided to find out who his father is. Thanks to information from his grandfather, Henry discovers that he’s the half-brother of a girl whose father is a local university professor. And then works, ever so subtly to bring some sense of peace and calm to the lives of everyone he’s come to care for in his life–his mother, the professor, and his half-sister.
This is one of those independent movies, kind of like Moonrise Kingdom, or Little Miss Sunshine where the entire world is turned on its ear and is uniformly bizarre enough where everything is funny and still easy to accept. And yet, it’s a remarkably touching story.
Henry’s mother is angry at the world, primarily because she was forced into a role that no teenage girl should be forced into. But at the same time, is a very good parent who wants to encourage, protect, and provide for her son.
The professor is troubled because his marriage fell apart, he’s on drugs of all types for sleeping problems, depression, and other issues; and his soon-to-be 13-year-old daughter hates him–and most of the world–because she was the test-subject of his well-intended, but poorly titled book about raising kids to not have a sexual identity, which was titled “Born Gay or Made That Way?”
This contained a lot of what I like in a movie: it felt effortless in how it told the story, it didn’t try to be too cute or too silly, and it let the plot tell the story without needing to resort to any silly gimmicks. Sure, there are flashbacks, but those are because Henry has a photographic memory, and some images he presents to us are very important to the story.
There’s nothing here that’s fluff. There’s nothing that is unnecessary. And it’s all written and directed to be very straight-forward. And when it gets you to a conclusion that’s predictable but still very satisfying, then the movie did its job to entertain. Sure, everyone seems to end up happy in the film, but that’s the point: Henry’s quest was as much about who his father is as it was about bringing completeness to three other broken lives.
I didn’t expect to like this movie that much, but I really did. It’s well worth the 92 minutes it takes to watch it. Four out of Five Stars.
See you tomorrow.