‘Jonathan’ is an enthralling science-fiction drama directed by Bill Oliver based on a screenplay by Peter Nickowitz, Gregory Davis, and Oliver himself. Starring Ansel Elgort (‘The Fault in Our Stars,’ ‘Baby Driver‘) in the titular role of the character of Jonathan, the film is a mind-bending exploration of an aberration in the human psyche.
Depicting the life of a person with double identities, the film takes the much-explored trope of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ and adds a romantic twist to it. As Jonathan tries to communicate with his nocturnal brother and come to terms with his internal conflict, we get a glimpse into Jonathan’s troubled life and childhood. While the film leaves more questions than answers in its finality, we shall try to untangle the knots for you. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Jonathan Plot Synopsis
Jonathan leads an ideal life – he gets up at 7 in the morning, goes for a run, helps the elderly with their groceries, doesn’t touch alcohol, and maintains a meticulous schedule resembling a “German train.” However, our seemingly boring protagonist has a nocturnal persona, a shadow identity, whom we would refer to as John for the brevity of thought, taking a cue from the film. We get to know, to our confusion, that Jonathan and John are “brothers” sharing the same body.
They communicate with each other through video messages, although occasionally keeping things from each other. Jonathan feels fatigued and tired when he wakes up in the morning, and he suspects that John’s nightlife has something to do with it. From a piece of a napkin that he finds in John’s pocket while doing laundry, he comes to know that his “brother” John occasionally visits a bar at night.
Although John tells him that he visited the Rialto Bar on only one occasion, Jonathan smells an incense of deception and goes to the bar himself, finding out that John is a regular customer there and that he has a girlfriend in Elena (Suki Waterhouse), one of the barmaids. Keeping a girlfriend is against the rules of the brotherly covenant, and an angry and disappointed Jonathan keeps two options in front of John, asking him to either come clean to his girlfriend about their dual personalities or severe ties with her altogether. John breaks up with Elena, who shows up at Jonathan’s place the next day, demanding an explanation. The sudden disappearance of John momentarily brings Jonathan and Elena closer, but they are not destined for a happily ever after.
Jonathan Ending: Are Jonathan and John Really Brothers Trapped in the Same Body?
During the daytime, Jonathan works as an apprentice architect, showing immense efficiency in his job and impeccable discipline in life, but when the sun comes down, he transforms into this passionate and chaotic anti-hero of John. While Jonathan is the repressed self who finds it easier to shy away from life, John is the primordial, instinctual self who embraces life with all its chaotic stupor. Jonathan is career-driven, whereas John is someone who would rather climb the Rockies.
We are led to believe that they live separate lives, their sole mode of communication being pre-recorded videos that they leave for each other. Jonathan also does not know about John’s girlfriend until he hires a detective to keep a tab on his nocturnal life. However, as the narrative progresses, these two identities become superfluous, spilling over the brim of their consciousness, finally merging into one. For those of you who are still trying to figure it out, ‘Jonathan’ could very well be a psychological drama presented in the garb of science fiction.
The film tries to construe its narrative quite meticulously, giving the audience a semblance of reality, but the reality is often more than what seems to be on the surface. Jonathan suffers from what seems to be dissociative identity disorder, a condition where the fragmented mind conjures up separate personas. In the course of the story, the audience gets to know that Jonathan had a third “brother,” who was removed in his childhood. And towards the end of the story, John wants himself to be removed.
Dr. Nariman suggests that maybe John does not want to disappear but wants to take over. The fragmented selves of Jonathan are perhaps the result of a lacking childhood, as is indicated by the loss of his mother at an early age. Another clue that proves this hypothesis is the fact that Jonathan never shows the recorded videos to anyone, not even to Elena, inducing in the audience a margin of doubt regarding his conversation with his brother. The aforementioned disorder is a recurrent trope in many Hollywood films and TV shows, including ‘Fight Club‘ and ‘Mr. Robot.’
What is The Relationship Between Jonathan And Dr. Nariman?
Dr. Mina Nariman, as Jonathan admits, is one of the two geniuses he has met in life. As the audience gets glimpses into Jonathan’s life, they sense that their relationship is more intimate and personal than that of a doctor and her patient. We come to know that Jonathan’s mother died at a very early age, and Dr. Nariman has been taking care of him ever since. In a movie that dabbles in Jungian archetypes, it should be almost certain that the doctor is a mother figure in Jonathan’s life.
She exercises maternal control over Jonathan’s life decisions in a way that no one else is allowed to in the course of the film. When Jonathan is on the verge of a breakdown, Dr. Nariman takes the liberty to ask Elena to step away from Jonathan’s life. If the doctor is the archetypal mother, we find a contrasting character in Elena’s maiden figure. Maybe the overbearing presence of the doctor is one of the reasons behind Jonathan’s suppression of raw emotions and carnal desires, which manifest in the persona of John.
Did Dr. Nariman Have Jonathan “Removed”?
Towards the end of the film, Dr. Nariman discloses to Jonathan that his “shift” is getting shorter, whereas John, driven by his depression and intense upsurge of passion, is pushing through into Jonathan. The brain transplant, we are told, is what keeps them separate, and in a previous scene, we see a conflicted Jonathan tearing away the transplant in a desperate attempt to stop John from jumping off the rooftop. Shortly after, Dr. Nariman says that she has replaced the transplant, while she doesn’t shed light on whether she has removed Jonathan altogether. Since there is no delineated compartment between the two “brothers” apart from their designated shifts, guessing this one is quite difficult.
However, in the final section of the film, we see Jonathan in a cab that has been hypothetically boarded by John, who has previously given the driver some prior instructions. In the beach scene, we see Jonathan communicating with John through the driver as their medium. As Jonathan hugs the cab driver and says his final goodbye, we are left with the impression that the persona of Jonathan dies, leaving John to lead a life of fulfillment. The cab is taking him to the John F. Kennedy Airport, from where he will perhaps head towards the Rockies.
However, when a French commentary plays on the radio, John asks the driver to turn the volume up, and while he probably doesn’t know French, the audience would remember the background noise of the daytime French class that commences in the vicinity of Jonathan’s neighborhood. While the movie ends here with a cliff-hanger, the suggestion is that a part of Jonathan’s self still lives within the persona of John.
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