Jean Jones is the sort of woman every man wants to have in their lives – as a friend, a sister, a partner…you name it.
She is smart, she is poised, she believes that every man should drink whiskey. In a way, being in her orbit makes one want to be a better man.
It doesn’t even matter that just below the surface, she’s a frayed bundle of nerves. Somehow you know she’ll get through it, and you just want to be around when she does.
Upon taking a break from her relationship with her boyfriend, Jean Jones (Taylour Paige) makes a beeline for the comfort of her family. Her aunts, her mother, and her grandmother all dote on each-other, pick at each-other, and generally get up in each-other’s business. As the family gathers for dinner, a strange man comes to their door…and then drops dead on their doorstep.
The stranger was once married to the grandmother. He is the father of all three daughters, and Jean’s grandfather. No one other than the grandmother had met him…before now.
Jean goes through a creative and personal crisis – all while fielding the advances of the EMT who took the call. She is trying hard to figure out who she is, and what she wants to say to the world. Perhaps a reminder of where she came from is what she needs.
JEAN OF THE JONESES is a search for belonging. It has enough faith in its story and its script to give every moment the space to land the sorrow, confusion, absurdity, and humour they so richly deserve. Whether it’s a dining room table or a family wake, Stella Meghie’s script is confident and patient. It includes a certain brand of passive aggression that will ring true for anyone from a dysfunctional family. What’s more, it knows how to portray Jean as seeming mixed-up without making her needy or entitled.
In short, it’s an incredible portrayal of both millennial uncertainty and the deep roots of a family tree.
There’s a moment midway through this film where Jean is partaking in a writing circle, and she shreds a colleague’s work. Specifically, she asks:
“Does everything have to be about poverty, and slavery, and a man in a dress?”
There’s been a lot of talk about representation in film recently, and in that moment we are reminded that there is such thing as representation within representation. There are many stories to tell from many different walks of life. Stories of love, dysfunction, and creative struggle are every bit as important in the cinematic landscape as retelling of a slave rebellion and whatever Medea happens to be up to next.
Now if only I could learn what a spindrift is…