Come Play review: A chilling tale of monster that lurks in a child’s gadgets

Little children, bless them, are afraid of their own shadows. The fear evaporates as they grow older and wiser. Interestingly, they aren’t afraid of the dark. Like some adults are! All of seven-eight, Oliver Sutton (Azhy Robertson), the mute and autistic protagonist in Jacob Chase’s impressive feature, is afraid of a supernatural creature lurking inside the gadgets he uses to communicate.

Named Larry, the antagonist is the titular character of a short film by Chase, which he adapted into this full-length feature. In Come Play Larry uses text messages, to convey to Oliver that he only wants to be his friend, but, first, Oliver must read a story called Misunderstood Monsters to facilitate its crossover from the virtual domain into reality. This will resonate deeply with anyone who has read Indian folklores, especially those revolving around our magnificent epics.

In Chase’s film, a cute bunch of small boys accompany Oliver in his adventures with reading; even so, feeling lonesome in school is par for the course for Oliver whose parents (Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr.) do their best to provide a loving environment to their son.

Chase uses technology to explore contemporaneous living where people establish instant virtual connections, which are, sadly, shallow, superficial, and lack the wherewithal to provide emotional sustenance — in Oliver’s case, the gadgets manifest a deceitful monster. “There are no ghouls, monsters, vampires,” dad Marty tells Oliver in a bid to allay his fears. Mom Sarah insists their home is not haunted (until convinced otherwise). Chase, wearing dual hats of director and writer, understands children and parenting well (raising a child with special needs can exact a toll on a marriage).

Much in the manner of Spielberg, Chase underlines themes of childhood angst and relationships in an age of anxiety. He enhances his film with the theme of enduring maternal love — and jump scares galore! The ending of Come Play strikes a satisfying, emotional chord. What can your reviewer say except that we are not afraid of sentiments.

Film: Come Play

Cast: Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr., Jayden Marine, Winslow Fegley, Gavin MacIver Wright

Director & Writer: Jacob Chase

Rating: 4 stars

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Free Press Journal