Joslyn (Joslyn Jensen) just 19 years old and fresh out of high
school. She arrives on an isolated wooded island to house-sit for
an anal, house-proud couple and to care for an elderly man Frank
(Ron Carrier) who is in a vegetative state. The home-owners have
written a detailed house bible giving her specific instructions
about how to deal with the day to day running of the house. They
are "without" compassion.
As soon as they depart Joslyn knuckles down to her tasks which
involve exercising Frank and dealing with the idiosyncracies of the
house. There is no internet access here and no mobile signal so
Joslyn has no means of Facebooking, Tweeting or texting people in
the world she has left behind. The maximum nightmare scenario of
the Millenial Generation!
Her phone is now reduced to the function of an alarm whose
joyful ringtone marks and eventually appears to mock each tiring
and lonely day. Director Mark Jackson explains: "our experiences
are filtered through media we create on our smartphones and when we
cannot interact, each smartphone becomes a hard drive filled with
memories." Joslyn spends her solitary hours looking at photos and
videos of an androgynous Asian American woman on her phone.
Her monotony is broken only by daily conversations with a woman
who sells her coffee at the gas station, the pharmacist in the drug
store who has gallows humour and a very persistent neighbourhood
handyman who persuades her to go on a disastrous date.
Mark Jackson skilfully takes us along a painful journey where a
young woman deals with vulnerable decaying masculinity. The
explicit yet subtly shot scenes where she has to clean up his
incontinent mess, and physically lift him from bed to wheelchair
are very powerful. He is without movement and she is losing her
mind. Behaving like a caged animal she survives by exercising
frantically and masturbating compulsively, without joy.
We observe teenager Joslyn alone in a house with a vulnerable,
helpless old man. Will she abuse him? How will she cope all alone
with such a huge responsibility? Can she rise to the occasion?
She finds photos of Frank's past life which she shares with him
as they lie together in bed; she finds a photo of his wife but also
his much younger mistress. And with this discovery her fragile,
jagged mind plays tricks on her as she no longer sees him as a
helpless victim and her behaviour towards him changes
As the film unfolds we realise her visit to the backwoods is not
a random choice.
Joslyn has tragically lost the love of her life and as a young
adult without any support she is trying to pick up the pieces of
her life. Her deceased lover's mother lives in the area and she
stalks her for a while before meeting her in a moving scene which
proves to be healing for both of them. Mark Jackson adds, "I was
very inspired by Dan Savage's It Gets Better video campaign. I am
interested the effect of gay teen suicides and I wanted to make a
film about the people who get left behind."
A debut microbudget feature written, directed and edited by Mark
Without is a slow burn; claustrophobically shot and superbly
performed. It is a comment on how we communicate via social media
using smartphones and computers but how we need real human warmth
in order to thrive. Without is a mood piece film that will
haunt you for days.
Watch trailer on