Watching Joshua, I was struck with the sense of no longer being in this time period — even though the movie is set in present day Manhattan. There's something old-fashioned, slow-building and just-under-the-surface eerie about the film, and in that way it differs from your average mainstream thriller. Not much happens, and the gradual building of suspense requires quite a bit of patience. But if you're a fan of old Hitchcock films, Joshua is a satisfying modern option.
Well-off Manhattan parents Brad (Sam Rockwell) and Abby (Vera Farmiga) have a beautiful life: They live in a gorgeous apartment on the Upper East Side, have a son Joshua (Jacob Kogan) who appears to be a kind of child prodigy, and just brought home a baby girl, Lily. As soon as Lily arrives in the house, however, their perfect lives start to slowly unravel and ultimately spiral wildly out of control. To find out what starts to happen,
Lily takes to crying for hours on end, wearing at Abby's sanity. It doesn't help that Joshua, a creepy, precocious child, has started acting out in bizarre ways, purportedly on account of his new baby sister joining the family. But Joshua's behavior takes a sinister turn, and as he plays mind games with his father, we feel at times sorry for the boy or baffled by his cold actions. Both his parents are ultimately — and frighteningly — rendered helpless to his manipulations.
What I found most intriguing about the movie was its disturbingly naturalistic vibe. This isn't a movie about supernatural or paranormal activity. They never explore the idea that the child is possessed by the devil, though his problems also don't stem from some kind of drug or brainwashing. And yet his behavior is far beyond that of a normal older sibling trying to come to terms with a new kid in the family. As producer Jonathan Dorfman is quoted as saying in the press materials, "The idea that a kid might be bad for no apparent reason is one of our scariest thoughts." The filmmakers clearly play on this fear in the movie, and they bring the uneasiness of this idea to a harrowing — if quiet — pitch.
Photos courtesy of Fox Searchlight