Review: Joshua (2007)

D: George Ratcliff
S: Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Jacob Kogan

I had really high hopes for this movie, making the mistake again of listening to some of the reviews on Ain't It Cool News.  I was expecting a deep psychological thriller, where you're never sure whether the title character is truly evil, or if he's just in the wrong place at the wrong times.  I was hoping for something bringing back memories of Let's Scare Jessica to Death, or perhaps the original The Omen.  Unfortunately, what this movie delivers is more along the lines of a bad made-for-cable movie.  It's hack work, that wastes not only a great premise, but a decent cast as well.

The premise is simple - young Joshua is a brilliant and gifted boy, whose family is changed by the arrival of a new baby.  His mother suffered from severe post-partum depression when Joshua was born, to the point of hospitalization, and it is everyone's fear that she may succumb to it a second time, with the arrival of her new child.  His father is a successful stockbroker whose job takes more of his life than his family.  And Joshua himself is a challenge, a young man with abilities, knowledge, and reasoning that far outstrip not only his age, but the abilities of those around him as well. 

Were this the movie it should have been, the family would slowly deteriorate, as hints are laid to the mother's descent into what we are led to assume to be a second bout of post-partum depression.   His father would seem overwrought and overstretched by trying to balance the work that pays for their lifestyle and the increasing demands of his home life as the mother's sanity seems to slip.  The other characters would be placed in situations that are ambiguous, where it's never entirely clear what happened, what the causes were, or even what some of the long-term effects are.  Joshua would be present, but never definitively an actor.  Unfortunately, this is not that movie.

Instead, we're presented with what can only really be described as a character study of a youthful sociopath.  Young Joshua is clearly and plainly the cause of much of the strife and danger in this movie, and as such it fails completely to be intriguing, interesting, or compelling.  This is really a lifeless movie, and when the final "reveal" takes place as to the motives that have driven the events of the movie, it's more a relief that it's all over than it is anything remarkable or insightful.  It's really a shame, since the premise shows so much promise...but the execution is rather pathetic.