Nikhila Vimal and Mathew Thomas are both able performers, and there are a few good moments in the film.
Fancy gadgets, clothes, and the many changes in lifestyle did not even minutely lift the narrow, nosy, and often regressive mindset of a generation of youngsters, you’d conclude after two hours of Jo & Jo. The new ‘young’ film on the block is, on the surface, about sibling rivalry – enacted by two able performers, Nikhila Vimal and Mathew Thomas. But the core of it appears to be the very Malayali tendency to poke your nose in someone else’s business, moral police them and constantly cook up theories about the things they might be doing. The film is themed on a little tapped subject – that of sibling rivalry, as opposed to the love of an ‘ettan’ or ‘chechi’ shown in many Malayalam films – but ends up being an amateur, unimpressive attempt that offers very little of the entertainment the promos had promised.
Mathew Thomas is once against the youngest sibling, the way he began in Kumbalangi Nights. In his debut, however, his character had seemed the most mature of the lot of four men. In Jo & Jo, where he is Jomon and his sister is Jomol, he is the picture-perfect description of the typical male teenager. He is barely attentive in class, hangs out most of the time with two other young men in the neighborhood (an adorable pair played by Naslen K Gafoor and Melvin G Babu), secretly smokes, watches porn, and gets preferential treatment from the mother. Sminu Sijo, playing her mother, is a wonderful actor, doing her small or clichéd roles with admirable honesty and a unique dialogue delivery.
Nikhila Vimal plays the older sibling, the other ‘Jo’. She is a character written with near perfection, for if you wander into a random Kerala house you are very likely to find a daughter like her, getting the short end of the stick from her. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as the treatment meted out to Cinderella – she will be given education like the boy in the house – but expecting equal treatment for her would be silly. Jo’s mother hands out task after task to her, household chores that the boy is always spared from. But it is not clear where the movie stands on it. At one point, the film seems to mock Jo when she brings up the political incorrectness of getting only the daughter to do the work while both she and Jomon have classes to attend. Jomon murmurs that his sister of him was making all this fuss just because she’s asked to do a few chores in the house.
As another cliché, the father is shown more understanding of the daughter. Actor Johny Antony proves he can do a lot more than comedy, and be the calm supportive dad with no heavy dialogues.
Watch: Trailer of the film
To be fair to the writers – director Arun D Jose and writer Raveesh Nath – they try to keep the rivalry relatable for a while. Both ‘Jo’s are introduced as brother and sister getting into a fight every day, her issues coming from the mother’s preferential treatment of her, while his of her comes from seeing the sister as a burden, messing with his plans of her.
For instance, Jomol insults her mother for not being well educated. Jomol says it right when she has an outburst later in the film – “I am fed up with this preparation to make me the perfect wife since I turned 16.” Clearly, Arun and Raveesh have tried to view the picture from the woman’s perspective, but do not quite get the gender commentary right.
As for Jomon, not too long into the movie, all of his other priorities take a backseat as he gets obsessed by the idea that his sister might have a relationship. Why is that something that either shocks him or angers him – a teenager living in these times and indifferent to everything else but his life from him – is unclear. Suddenly, he dons the typical ‘Malayali brother’ role, and does not want his sister to have a good time. Being a typical male teen and having friends who talk of girlfriends, Jomon can only see a relationship as something dirty when it happens to a woman in the house. He snoops, and his friends become aides. However, the exchanges between the three young men are enjoyable, it being a mix of wanting to be adults and still clutching the last shreds of childhood.
Jomol doesn’t have such a friend circle. She doesn’t hang out with anyone except the children who come home for tuition classes, her parents and the grandmother. Jomol too is not above snooping, as if 18 and 21-year-olds have nothing better to do with their lives. It is not unreal of course, quite a lot of siblings are nosy.
If the film was trying to throw light on the double standards of men, taking the moral high ground, it does so poorly. Bad use of music, untimely comedy, jerky scenes all make for some really amateur making. The script had a promise, but it doesn’t quite deliver.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organization may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.