BFI Flare: Jump, Darling (2020) – on demand

Following a break-up, a struggling drag queen visits his ailing grandmother in the country and finds himself staying as the pair support each other in various ways in writer/director Phil Connell’s Jump, Darling.

A Map to the End of the Earth

by Chris Drew

Jump, Darling

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Jump, Darling opens with contrasting scenes of characters struggling; a frail elderly woman about to burn herself while heating a kettle and in a drag club a young queen having a drink and stumbling on their way to the stage.

The queen is Russell (Thomas Duplessie, The Mechanical Boy), and we next see him hurriedly packing and leaving his boyfriend. Soon he is literally emptying a piggy bank in a taxi, eventually having to give the driver a bottle of wine.

Arriving at his destination we learn the older woman is his grandmother Margaret (the late Cloris Leachman, The Last Picture Show), who says it is a “long-awaited but unnerving surprise” to see him.

Margaret is caring with Russell but always ready with a sassy comment while Russell initially appears cool and detached. He says he is there for the car before we see him forge a cheque. The motives for his visit may not be honourable.

The next morning he is leaving but a cry for help from Margaret calls him back in. She is embarrassed to say she needs help getting into the shower and is not quite feeling herself. Russell’s more caring instincts kick in and he agrees to stay.

From this point a warm connection develops between the pair which is always infused with witty banter. Russell wants to support Margaret and help keep her out of the local nursing home.

As grandmother and grandson reconnect, Russell find himself a job at a local bar where he can revive his confidence for drag as his alter-ego Fishy Falters. Later, when asked if drag is a gay thing or a gender thing, Russell responds “it’s not about who or how you fuck, it’s about fuck you”.

Connell’s film continually surprises and challenges expectations in pleasing ways; there are unexpected character reactions and interesting shifts of tone within both individual scenes and relationships.

This is most obvious when Russell’s mother Ene (Linda Kash, Best In Show) arrives. On first sight she is the disapproving parent and concerned daughter but is revealed to be an endearing character: funny, loving and very accepting of Russell.

Russell’s interactions with surly local bartender Zachary (Kwaku Adu-Poku) frequently twist and change before a late surprise reveal that Russell, as Fishy Falters, impressively takes in his stride.

Legendary Oscar winner Leachman (who passed away in January 2021, the film is dedicated to her memory) gives a wonderful vanity-free performance full of humour. Almost every witty quip to Russell ends with her signature “Darling”.

Leachman is matched by Duplessie who is given time to let rip in some of Fishy Falter’s lengthy performances, especially a thrilling routine to Robyn’s ‘Indestructible’ while alone in the bar.

Full of snappy dialogue and a super soundtrack full of dance tracks, Jump, Darling is an entertaining film about family, forgiveness and finding your authentic self.

Jump, Darling premiered at the 35th BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, and is available to screen as part of BFI Flare until 28 March as part of the UK-wide digital programme on BFI Player.

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