The previews hailed it as a psychological thriller, not unlike the master of the genre, Alfred Hitchcock. High praise indeed, and it was with such expectation I and another patron took in "Joshua" at the local indie theatre.
Joshua, 9, is an odd kid all around; he's very bright, a loner, wears a suit and tie often (part of a school uniform, it seems, though why he wears it all the time adds to his oddities), and apparently lacks the ability to display much of anything resembling an emotion. (Overall, not a bad performance from Jacob Kogan, a boy who will claim this as his film debut and only second time in a production, after a minor role in a single episode on TV, and yes, he does smile in real life.)
Joshua's parents Brad and Abby just welcomed into the world their second child, Lily, and Joshua's sister. Joshua says he's pleased, but is generally ignored by everyone, most of the time, aside from when his uncle Ned is around (mom's brother). Even Brad's parents prefer to want to cuddle with the infant and ignore the kid that vaguely resembles an undertaker sitting at the piano.
Joshua slowly seems to take advantage of mom's frail state; she's suffering a bout of postpartum depression, and is reluctant to take the medication since she's nursing the baby. Brad is having troubles at work with the boss not loving Brad spending any time or thought on having a life outside of work, so things could be better for mom and dad both.
Joshua manages to simultaneously keep at the center of everything and in the shadows; he's involved with, and present in, most everything that happens, but by virtue of not being the baby and being easily overlooked, not everyone notes he's around.
From the perspective of the movie-goer, that theme carries into the audience; the film managed to hold on for just one week at our theatre, and seems to be doing very short runs (opening weekend was a mere $51,000 on 6 screens). For the build-up of the previews, and claiming myself a veteran of "The Birds" and "Vertigo," I'd say likening this film to any of the Hitchcock classics would be a gross injustice.
"Joshua" is not a bad go as thrillers go, but you hardly have the sense, as in "The Birds" whereby the family may have gotten away from the infected town, but without explanation of the cause of the bird attack or a solution to it, there's nothing preventing it from happening again, to you, in your hometown. Nope, none of that unwritten ending... Joshua's impact to the world, or the perceived peril to you and your family is nil. Worst case, the creepy kid may be scary enough to hold on for a second week in theatres, but alas, not in my neck of the woods.