Roberts also takes on the role as the eponymous protagonist, an unpopular, ostracised teenager, who spends the majority of his days avoiding eye contact with his peers at school, and hanging out with his dog in the nearby woods, that neighbour his remote, Welsh village. But that could all change when an elusive American called Dean (Emile Hirsch) moves in next door – because if they can become companions, and Dean continues to enhance and alter the image of this socially inept, teenage boy – then Jim could just become the coolest kid in town.
Roberts has instantly established a creative, resourceful vision as a filmmaker, with an aptitude for presenting a story in a unique way, and forming an indelible atmosphere in the process. There are undoubtedly shades of Richard Ayoade prevalent, after the pair collaborated on Submarine and The Double – but any such influences are affectionate and not in any way overbearing or imitative, never compromising the artistic integrity of this young director.
Just Jim blurs reality, as you’re so often unsure what you are seeing is happening in our protagonist’s mind, or whether it’s genuine. The entire film survives off this ambiguity, as a fantasy of sorts, as Jim has so much time to himself, to think and to dream – and the entire situation concerning Dean feels as though it could almost be a product of that. The character looks like James Dean, a bonafide movie star turning up to a small town in Wales. It’s deliberately over-the-top, and enhances the surrealistic elements of this picture. This is where Roberts must be commended too, as he manages to display raw, naturalistic themes concerning a depressed teenager in a way that is poignant and profound, and yet entirely ethereal, as though taking place in a made up world – and yet in spite of that, you always care for Jim and his well-being, able to invest and empathise throughout.
What transpires is a picture that will leave you feeling distinctly uncomfortable, as a sense of anxiety creeps over the viewer as you leave the cinema. Afraid to say that it’s a feeling that lingers, too.