REVIEW: JESSICA FOREVER sets up a cool premise, but largely delivers style over narrative substance.


Writer/directors Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel deliver a stylish looking science fiction film, but with little narrative focus to justify the visuals.

Jessica Forever, a French genre science fiction picture debuting as an exclusive on Shudder this month, promised an interesting premise of a group of disaffected young men living a dystopian future are bandied together by a woman warrior who serves as a mother figure and a cause to rally behind. Indeed, when the film begins, that seems to be what we get. We meet Kevin (Eddy Suiveng), a young man living alone in an abandoned suburban home, being hunted down by drones sent by an unnamed special forces unit. His life is saved by Jessica (Aomi Muyock), a beautiful blue-eyed warrior who has built a team of refugees from this machine war to rise up against them. The other boys, with names like Raiden and Magic, take Kevin in and show him the ropes of their ragtag clan. Jessica has taken them in and made them a family; one that takes them in as they are and sets them to the task to free themselves in this society where they are hunted.

On paper, this sounds like a rad film. Unfortunately, JESSICA FOREVER is largely a film that tells us things about its characters, rather than show us those actions that define them as individuals. While we’re led to initially believe that Jessica and her unit are living in an empty dystopia, the group eventually flees to an island where the world is very much like the one we live in now. People go to school, have parties, drink, have sex; all the things we see every day as the characters break down and tell Jessica they’re afraid of this new world. Others look for love here, while others look to escape. At this point, I began to wonder if maybe there was a metaplot and Jessica and the other kids might be mental patients projecting their delusions in the real world. But in a film where ghosts and portals to other realms exist, the film seems to be all over the place and doesn’t really give you any answers to help the viewer sort out what’s going on.

That’s the global issue with JESSICA FOREVER, we never get enough of a look at these characters’ inner lives to make sense of what we’re seeing other than interesting visuals strung together. One character immolates himself and the one who finds him has a flashback of this character with another deceased boy-soldier eating ramen, yet prior to this, this character has almost no dialogue. Moreover, the biggest missed opportunity is in the character of Jessica herself. She reacts to the other characters’ missteps and problems, but we never see her being proactive. She’s a cipher and in a film co-written and co-directed by a woman, I expected more of an investment and importance would be placed in terms of her character. In many ways, I was reminded of the music video for the Rammstein song Sonne; we see dwarves enslaved by a beautiful Snow White, but we never really see what they get out of their servitude except the ability to be around a beautiful woman. The lack of romantic or sexual tension throughout the movie amongst Jessica and her troops is in and of itself unrealistic, especially given a prominent subplot in the film, and makes you question why and what Jessica gets out of helping these people. Moreover, aside from some lip service to altruisms, the film’s ending doesn’t help that cause at all. Given the rich history of genre filmmakers like Luc Besson that come from France and intriguing genre fare like 2019’s Les Miserables (a French reimagining of the play by way of Training Day), there isn’t really a reason for the nebulous nature of the film.

Ultimately, while JESSICA FOREVER sports some beautiful cinematography and interesting set pieces, it never really takes off and leaves a disappointing taste of what might have been in its place.