The Chattanooga Film Festival is a genre festival hosting films that revolve around various topics. One of their most offbeat selections is Jumbo, a French drama that explores the romantic relationship between a young woman and an amusement park ride called Jumbo. Jeanne, an amusement park employee, whose closest relationship is with her wild and fun loving mother, does not seem to be interested in dating. This is a point of contention as her mother, Margarette, is very vocal about her own sexuality. As sex positive as Margarette is, she has some trouble accepting her daughter’s attraction to machinery. Jumbo delves into themes of love, sexuality, and questions the true nature of happiness.
Written and directed by Zoe Wittock, interesting visuals are used to tell a story that is both erotic and sincere. The lights of the amusement park and of Jumbo itself, reflect the the spirit of romance in the film and the use of an amusement park is an excellent way to show the emotions of first love. In addition to the innocence of first love, dream like sequences involving nudity and oil depict the erotic nature of the relationship.
The strange subject matter is handled with sensitivity and nuance, highlighting the closeness of Margarette and Jeanne. While this story may be on the whole about a woman and her romantic relationship with a machine, this very much a story about the love of a mother for her child. Emmanuelle Bercot plays Margarette, a single mom, who is not shy about bringing men home or speaking to her daughter about orgasms. Bercot delivers a strong performance portraying frustration and fear for her daughter while also putting her horror on display. While it is clear Margarette loves her daughter and is worried about her, her judgement overpowers her empathy.
Noemi Merlant, who plays Jeanne, gives a passionate performance as she fights to understand her own feelings, while giving herself away to them. Bercot and Merlant work off each other very well in this tale that shows how a sexual awakening can disrupt the bond between mother and child.
Jumbo may be an uncomfortable watch as it is certainly not a quirky comedy, but it does convey a myriad of feelings that will resonate with anyone who has ever had to have an uncomfortable conversation with a parent.