Directed by: Jacob Chase
Screenplay by: Jacob Chase, based on Larry by: Jacob Chase
Starring: Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr, Azhy Robertson, Winslow Fegley
It’s very easy to ‘armchair quarterback’ a film’s intent and direction. You sit down in a comfy seat, watch a thrilling story unfold for 90-some-odd-minutes, and then, perhaps, never think about it again.
Yet, “Come Play” doesn’t play like it’s an ‘entertainment of the moment.’
There’s real depth and a sense of compassion for the family at the center of the film. Jacob Chase, whose screenplay is based on his short film, ‘Larry,’ directs the film through what I can only assume is a first-hand lens.
Chase’s script is centered on a young, autistic child, Oliver (Azhy Robertson, “Marriage Story”). Oliver is bright, intelligent and perceptive, and very easily misunderstood. His mom, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs), supports her child through every facet of his medical care while his father, Marty (John Gallagher Jr, “Underwater,” “The Belko Experiment”) is generally distant.
“Come Play” opens the lines of communication through the use of technology, allowing us to experience Oliver’s world. There is a very tactile sense of who Oliver is through Robertson’s acting as he interacts with his classmates and his family; you really get to want to love this kid, not just for him, but because he is such an endearing character, much like Elliot in “E.T.” This makes the appearance of the creature one of the more horrific aspects of the film scarier.
The challenge with “Come Play” is with the characters surrounding Oliver. Sarah is a loving, supporting mom. Like many parents, she is overcommitted and under-supported, especially when providing care for Oliver. She does her best, though, and you feel Jacobs’ giving the character extra gas to really push through. On the other hand, Gallagher plays distant quite adroitly, and the film is clever enough to understand the distinction between the two parents, even if it can’t quite balance the character development and the creature.
Chase uses Oliver’s point of view to introduce us to the creature and to let it gestate throughout the film. Taking a page from “Poltergeist’s” playbook, the story uses smart technology to communicate Oliver’s feelings or reactions and as a method for the creature to make its presence known as well. At one point in the film, the creature is giving chase and jumps between multiple cars in a parking lot, demonstrating that its power knows no limits even between modern, more sophisticated cars and the less technology-dependent cars of the past.
“Come Play” works at building suspense with most of that effort reflected in Azhy Robertson’s acting. Jacob Chase is to be commended for adapting his short story into a feature-length film. It fills many of the similar stories of its Amblin brethren. The story, while visually exciting, doesn’t always work the way it is intended. It ends up being a movie that is perhaps “too much in the moment” rather than being of the moment.
“Come Play” is Recommended.