When a film starts with a finale teaser, you know you’re in for a tale of how we got here and director Eric England’s Josie sets us up in that manner by showing us Police outside a door about to break in just before we cut back to the start. After this moment, coupled with a voice-over, we meet Hank (Dylan McDermott), a seemingly solitary kind of guy, living alone in his Motel room, going fishing by himself and see visions of someone in an US orange prison outfit but not really up to much else.
Things start getting interesting for everyone when teenager Josie (Sophie Turner) moves into the Motel block, she makes friends quickly and a spark is lit in Hank, as she’s paying him attention and he doesn’t connect with the locals. In fact, we’re shown the literal barrier he’s built between the back of his home and the world outside, which comes in the form of an enclosed army-netted area in which he keeps his only companions; two tortoises.
While in some situations, the mysterious nature of characters and ‘who they are’ can be the beginning of a gradual increase in pace, Josie never really alters. You know the phrase a ‘slow-burner’? Well, Josie is an extreme slow burner with a simple premise beneath the surface of people living in a motel, which never really grows beyond its desperately mysterious nature.
Hank has secrets, he sees the aforementioned prisoner that (without spoilers) links back to his past and the reason why he lives where he does. McDermott plays it well, all mumbling Southern-drawl and hopeful looks to the world outside, a scene in his pants could be seen as laughable but there’s a melancholy to it instead. Josie is also well played by Turner but you never really feel you know her. Her character has kindness but you feel some form of manipulation beneath the surface, mainly as she’s using the men he meets for her advantage. The only real openness with characters is nosey neighbours Gordie (Kurt Fuller) and Martha (Robin Bartlett) who help mix up the unknown a little.
One of the biggest issues I had with Josie is the lack of a dirty, gritty nature. While framing and shots can be beautifully filmed, it’s missing that edge that would become a character of its own. You can feel the filter dampening the sunshine, but it’s not enough to believe in. If these people were so run down and at the end of the line in some form or another, you’d get it but with shots being so clean and structured, while their lives are messy and complex, the visuals don’t always reflect the darkness of the overall story.
While the finale may surprise, it’s thrown in so quickly that, disappointingly, it barely has any intensity at all. There’s room for a whole lot more here because it’s exquisitely shot by cinematographer Zoe White and directed by England, and despite good performances, it comes too late to rescue itself and you’re left disappointingly numb to it all.