Lewandowski’s ambitious feature debut attempts to tackle weighty issues like trust, forgiveness, and sexuality, but is a little too deeply rooted in a conventional narrative style. Jonathan, played by a brooding and sentimental Jannis Niewohner, has devoted most of his life to caring for his father who suffers from terminal cancer. As his father’s condition worsens, both characters attempt to find closure – at which point it is revealed that the father is gay.
The film focuses on Jonathan’s quest for moral and spiritual growth, as it slowly reveals itself to also be a late-in-life coming-out story. Lewandowski seems to strive to keep a certain distance from his characters, in an attempt to offer an objective, level-headed depiction of their relationship. But despite central performances of great dramatic range, the film suffers from its own lack of identity, as it oscillates between chamber-piece and melodrama, and lacks clarity when it comes to taking sides. The route the story takes seems to suggest that Jonathan needs to forgive his father, but it’s never entirely clear what he should be forgiving him for.
Jonathan | Directed by Piotr J. Lewandowski (Germany, 2016) with Jannis Niewohner. Starts October 13