Short Films: The Final Act of Joey Jumbler (2019) - Reviewed

Most teenagers would have a tough time portraying the complexities of the human experience through media, having not lived through enough highs and lows to depict it earnestly.  The same cannot be said for 18-year-old Canadian filmmaker Harley Chamandy, who’s made quite a name for himself during the few years he’s been creating films.  His short film The Final Act of Joey Jumbler is able to pack a gamut of raw emotion and social commentary within its short 11-minute running time, and is a prolific piece for someone his age.

Inspired by the real-life story of the lead actor Alain Boucher’s young daughter with leukemia, the film follows a day in the life of Joey Jumbler, a party clown that is forced to smile in his profession when his heart wants to do anything but that.  We first see him entertaining a children’s table at a high society dinner where he is treated poorly, followed by him concluding his day visiting his sick daughter in the hospital.  It is a piece where the unspoken speaks louder than the dialogue itself, and the pain is downright palpable, thanks to Alain Boucher’s nuanced and deeply personal performance.

One of the most interesting aspects of this film are the juxtapositions we are shown throughout.  The film begins with Joey eating at an unimpressive diner, cutting to him arriving at the lavish dinner he must entertain, displaying the sharp contrast between his own existence and those for whom he works.  The innocence of children and the cruelty of adults emanates from the film, showing Joey being ridiculed by the adults, while being given a mostly gracious audience by the children.  There is a stylistic dichotomy here as well: all of the shots inside the mansion are warm and well-lit, while the hospital scenes are drab and shadowy, visually demonstrating the vast difference between the “fantasy” of the upper class and the bleak reality of Joey’s life.

The Final Act of Joey Jumbler packs in a great deal, but in a way that seems intimate and poignant.  Stories involving sick children can sometimes feel heavy-handed, but Chamandy deals with the subject matter with tact beyond his years.  From Pierrot to Emmett Kelly, the paradoxical theme of the sad clown has resonated over the centuries, and in this film, we see a modern day version of this tragicomic figure.  It is a heartbreaking piece worthy of a watch that will make anyone second-guess what is underneath a smile.

-Andrea Riley