“Sophie Jones” is truly a slice-of-life film. Written and directed by Jessie Barr in her directorial debut, the film follows 16-year-old Sophie Jones (Jessica Barr, the director’s cousin, also in her debut) as she navigates high school after the death of her mother. There is no clear plot in “Sophie Jones,” the audience instead sits in on the daily life of a teenage girl as she explores her sexuality in the midst of her grief.
The film takes place over the course of two years, causing several sometimes-confusing time jumps. However, while some may be bothered by the lack of structure, “Sophie Jones” ultimately finds power and emotion in the freeness it provides.
From the first ten minutes of “Sophie Jones,” you know that you’re watching something distinct. The first scene with Sophie sitting with and tasting her mother’s ashes — which is obviously quite unsettling — is immediately followed by her going on a date and eventually hooking up with her friend Kevin (Skyler Verity, “Heartthrob”). These two scenes are clearly different in subject, but when placed together they set the tone for the rest of the film. Sophie is growing as she grieves, and it’s messy, awkward and joyous all at once.
The naturalness and authenticity of the characters and dialogue shine most in a scene where Sophie talks about the day her mother died. The camera stays on her as she delivers this monologue, and it’s mesmerizing. Throughout her wide array of growing pains, she has also suffered a tremendous loss, and there’s no way to escape it.
The film’s disjunct plot contributes to that –– viewing this movie feels like watching different memories, all tainted by the sadness that comes with death. It feels cheesy to say that the characters all feel extremely authentic, but they really do. I could’ve watched them live their lives in these scenes for much longer than the film lasts.
My only gripe with “Sophie Jones” is that, by the end, it would have benefited from a clearer establishment of where we are in time. For the majority of the film, Sophie is a junior in high school. It then becomes summer vacation, but very quickly it is New Year’s Eve, and then suddenly she’s about to leave for college. In other parts of the film, the looseness of time lends itself to the plot and style, but at the end, the audience has to play a disorienting level of catch-up.
In spite of this, don’t let this film fall under your radar. Its 82-minute runtime is short but clear in its message and voice. There have been so many indie coming-of-age films over the past couple of years, but many are forgettable and disingenuous. “Sophie Jones” is unique and shows great promise for both Jessie and Jessica Barr. It is heartbreaking but sweet at the same time, and there are many moments that made me want to live in the film, walk around in its world and soak it all up. That is rare. This is not one to miss.
Daily Arts Writer Judith Lawrence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.