James White

Best known for his role as Marnie’s ex-boyfriend Charlie on HBO’s Girls, Christopher Abbott plays a serial screwup inarticulately grappling with loss in writer-director Josh Mond’s James White. Although there are other actors in the film, including an excellent Cynthia Nixon, the emotionally raw indie fixates on his bruised face and raging moods, to an almost claustrophobic degree. James is a handsome but troubled twenty-something Manhattanite whose estranged father has just died and whose mother (Nixon) is slowly withering away from stage 4 cancer. The kid’s got a right to be angry. James deals with his grief by acting out, getting wasted, and starting pointless fights. Was he always this way? Or is it just a reaction to so much sickness and death? The film doesn’t say. Grasping for moments of grace (a beach vacation in Mexico, a romance with a sympathetic student played by Makenzie Leigh) to gauze over the grim day-to-day reality of his life, James is a lost soul whose searching, heavy-lidded eyes betray an inner sensitivity. In the best scene, which comes late in the film, James holds his dying mother and shares a vision of their future that they both know she’ll never get to see—a future where he’s a happy, loving father. You get the sense that he’s describing the man she always knew he’d become, but that he’s just seeing coming into focus for the first time. B

James White
  • Movie
  • 85 minutes