When the film opens, there’s a tension in the air. You feel it. A boy racing through the forest. An old man, his father, sitting by a tree. It’s raining, the colours are blue and grey. Even in the throes of a thunderstorm, there’s something beautiful about the scene—a beauty that permeates the rest of the entire film.
The film’s title character, Jonathan, is played by baby-faced, blue-eyed, blonde Jannis Niewöhner, playing the 18-year old son stuck at home taking care of his sick father. This isn’t your typical gay film, though: the lead character isn’t the gay character. Set on a farm in rural Germany, Jonathan is stuck at home amidst bitter family rivalries he doesn’t understand. Ultimately, it’s a film about the father-son relationship. Jonathan’s father, played by André M. Hennicke, is the film’s gay character. You know that throughout the film—hints here and there—but it’s not until the words are actually uttered when you feel a sense of relief. Finally, the secret’s out.
But the drama goes further. This is contemporary Germany and Jonathan is accepting, but has to come to terms with a complicated family history—and wondering whether his life has been a disappointment, an hindrance, to his dying father’s unrealized life.
He’s helped through this process by the lovely and talented supporting actress Julia Koschitz, playing Jonathan’s girlfriend and nurse to the sick father. The story unfolds with family secrets revealed sparingly—but just at the right times before it becomes too late. With beautiful close-up shots throughout, and an achingly romantic sex scene on a hospital bed, this film captures the raw emotions of a broken family coming to terms with reality. The movie’s scenes set in the countryside—often wet, green and never really dry—mimic the emotions of the characters. Their world isn’t perfect and is full of drama, but by the time the film ends, finally there’s a relief brought out with a sigh.
Jonathan is directed by Polish-born Piotr J. Lewandowski—his first film. It’s got all the elements of a successful movie. Great cinematography, an incredible cast and a soundtrack that fits well within the story. There are contrasting moments of happiness and sadness, confusion and clarity. It’s a touching story which some might find sad, but somehow the joy shines through.