A timid younger brother who enjoys illegal racing suddenly has to brake for responsibilities in “Jo for Jonathan,” a small-scale story from Canuck suburbia that is effectively handled by Quebecois helmer Maxime Giroux (“Sophie”). Shot on grainy, washed-out 16mm, the pic has a strong feel for composition, and amplifies the impact of its more shocking moments by neatly leaving them offscreen. Fests will go for this bleak item, though wider breakout seems unlikely.
Jo (Raphael Lacaille, impressive), lives in the shadow of his older sibling, Thomas (Jean-Sebastien Courchesne, good), whose life seems too cool for school. But Thomas tells Jo his own shitty existence is not worth imitating and he should get a life of his own. A car-racing accident — impressively staged without a hint of excitement; “Rebel Without a Cause” this is not — changes both their lives. Giroux’ take on listless youngsters faced with tragedy and issues of responsibility is clearly indebted to Gus Van Sant (“Elephant,” “Paranoid Park”) in terms of both aesthetics and themes, but has enough individuality and directorial flair to stand on its own. Tech package is modest but precise.