I remember sitting at the park watching my young kids on the swings when I first heard the word COVID-19. What was it and why was everyone everywhere talking about it? Within weeks the Ontario government, led by our Napoleonic leader Doug Ford, essentially issued a stay-at-home order. If I remember correctly they even paid us not to leave the house unless we needed groceries or pharmaceuticals. Remember CERB? Ford’s mandate was simple- sit on your couch, eat yourself silly and get addicted to anti-anxiety medication because this virus is so deadly you’ll be worrying day and night if you don’t. Schools were shut down. Kids were forced to learn online (or improve their Fortnight skills) and the parks were treated like police scenes with yellow tape around slides, swings and other once child-friendly structures. It felt somehow as if Canada was at war. I guess we were in a bio-war with a killer debilitating virus started by an infected bat in Wuhan, China. More time passed and suddenly everyone was wearing doctor’s masks and standing at least six feet apart. I recall having a full-on panic attack at Walmart when a few customers breached my six-foot perimeter. This was no joke. The Police were even fining people for walking too close together. Six months later Trump claimed victory with life-altering vaccines. Millions of Canadians dashed to their computers attempting to book their jabs. Lines for the life-sustaining medicine lasted hours. Eventually, Canada became sort of an authoritarian country where the conservative provincial government issued a law that if you didn’t have a card or electronic proof you were fully vaccinated, then you couldn’t go to restaurants, or movies – essentially anywhere that allowed people in. Suddenly, tens of thousands of people around the world were having side effects from the vaccine and one percent were dying from the jab. Subsequently, people stopped lining up for their updated vaccines and people began to die from not getting vaccinated. At this point, all perspective was lost and masks became an individual choice. As of today, the government is recommending we wear masks again because the flu is bad this year because we were wearing masks for the last few years which has made society more vulnerable to the once not-so-deadly flu.
Little Jar, one of many covid era films, is a quirky silly isolation comedy that provides a fresh perspective on the isolation many endured during the pandemic and how the lack of human connection can affect us.
Directed by Dominic López, who also co-wrote the script with Kelsey Gunn who plays the lead Ainsley, Little Jar is full of fun and humorous moments. For many of us who spent the lockdown by ourselves, the film’s themes may percolate particularly with extroverts as they’re reminded of the importance of human connection and relationships.
It’s March 2020 when Little Jar opens and the world is starting to understand and deal with the deadliest pandemic it has endured since the Spanish Flu 100 years earlier. Ainsley, the main character, has been instructed to work from home until this COVID thing is figured out – probably at most a couple of weeks. Exasperated by her co-workers and neighbours not taking the pandemic seriously, Ainsley looks forward to some solitude. Not to mention she claims to hate people. The grocery delivery guy appears to be her only connection with the outside world.
Over time she becomes more and more paranoid which has psychological repercussions which come across in the form of brilliant comedic tropes. She refuses to leave her house and starts having pretend staff meetings.
As the lockdown continues her elation at being alone soon turns into her own brand of quirky and somewhat disturbing madness. She discovers a small glass jar in a drawer filled with buttons, pins, various household items and… the preserved body of a dead mouse. The mouse quickly becomes Ainsley’s obsession, receiving a tiny set of clothes, a small room of its own, and all of her attention. Her conversations with it turn into a relationship which, as it evolves, becomes unexpectedly complex.
Eventually, Ainsley is forced to choose between her pretend reality with the mouse or the outside world where the quirky grocery store delivery man represents human connection and freedom.
Amazingly this charming little bleak feature-length comedy was filmed during the height of the pandemic when a group of friends quarantined together in Lake Arrowhead to create this film.
Overall this is a pretty good comedy which shows how innovative filmmakers can be when forced to use the only resources they have access to in a time of unheard-of crisis. Perhaps the irony is since the team lived together during this time, they were all probably so focused on producing their movie, their human
connections grew stronger and they were probably less isolated than they’d ever been.
Little Jar is a well-made movie, with an excellent performance by Gunn, and an innovative script but a movie that’s
unfortunately probably going to be relegated to the festival scene and video on demand.