By Emily Murray
Jumbo is not only one of the most unusual love stories that has ever been brought to the screen, but it is also one of the most beautiful.
Taking inspiration from the true story of Erika Eiffel, the woman who married the Eiffel Tower, the film follows young amusement park worker Jeanne (Noemie Merlant) as she falls in love with Jumbo – the latest ride at the park.
Unlike the way documentaries and the media usually tackle the subject matter of object sexuality, there is no mocking tone in Jumbo as writer and director Zoe Wittock handles it with sensitivity.
It’s a refreshing approach as Wittock’s aim here is not to comment on Jeanne’s relationship with Jumbo, but instead to bring that romance to life and make it a believable one for the audience – something she very much succeeds in doing.
From the moment Jeanne’s eyes light up when she first meets Jumbo, we become invested in their relationship as we see the effect the ride has on this shy woman, helping her find understanding in a world in which she felt totally lost.
Rather than question the relationship, Wittock instead turns this on the audience, challenging them by asking the question if Jeanne’s romance isn’t hurting anyone, why should anyone interfere?
The answer is of course that they shouldn’t, something Jeanne’s mother Margarette (wonderfully played by Emmanuelle Bercot) learns to understand when her daughter comes out to her.
This isn’t just a story of acceptance and love between woman and machine, but between mother and daughter too which is as equally moving as the central romance.
A key reason why Jeanne and Jumbo’s relationship is not only believable but also affecting is the beautiful acting – and yes we are talking here about both Merlant and the rollercoaster itself.
Anyone who saw Portrait Of A Lady On Fire will already know how impressive of an actor Merlant is, but she will still blow you away in Jumbo with her captivating performance.
All you need to do is look into Jeanne’s wide eyes which look on at Jumbo with love, longing and awe to fully understand exactly what he means to her.
Plenty of work was put into not only choosing the right ride to play Jumbo, but also into crafting the language he speaks.
Wittock and her team make excellent use of lighting, movement and sound to ensure Jumbo has his own unique way of communicating, one which articulates well his emotions and makes him seem truly alive.
He groans, he grumbles, he sweeps Jeanne off her feet, he listens, and crucially that pulsating radiant centre is reminiscent of a heartbeat.
Crucially the film doesn’t attempt to find a reasoning for Jeanne’s journey, attempting in no way to diagnose her or analyse her mind.
Instead the concentration is on her relationships with both Jumbo and her mother Margarette, with the movie spending its time in the moments between them, from the heartbreaking to the joyous.
The result is something magical and so it is easy to fall head over heels in love with Jumbo as Jeanne did with the rollercoaster herself.
Jumbo is playing as part of the Glasgow Film Festival.
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