First there was ‘Submarine’, a quirky comedy about a nerdy Welsh teen, whose likeable male lead Craig Roberts has now written and directed his own movie... where he stars as as a nerdy Welsh teen. Thankfully, the two titles are substantially different, ‘Just Jim’ daring to go weirder and wilder than Richard Ayoade’s effort.
Its adolescent growing pains play out in Jarmusch-style deadpan as Roberts’ hapless social outcast yearns for the cool girl he can’t have, yet this is also small-town Wales through a Lynchian filter, featuring an eerily deserted fleapit cinema and sundry oddball strangers. Chuck in a historical compendium of US teen-flick motifs, from James Dean attitudes to designer '80s visuals, and that sheer onrush of cinephile enthusiasm is what captivates most.
Roberts simply dispenses with caution (check those Jess Franco zooms!), heroically sustaining deliberate ambiguity as to how much of this, not least silver-tongued new American neighbour Emile Hirsch, is actually real. Ultimately, the head-scratcher finale doesn’t exactly satisfy, but there’s endeavour aplenty here announcing a zesty, unruly film-making talent deserving the chance to take the odd misstep.