I love that old story about the scorpion and the fox. The scorpion convinces a fox to allow it to ride on its back and together cross a river. Halfway across the river, though, the scorpion stings the fox condemning them both to drown. When asking why he'd do this, the scorpion says "because it's my nature." It's an ancient and universally constant tale of caution and choice. We feel a need to connect, to bond and help. Jax in Love is a modern tale of caution, of the perception of danger being ignored because, certainly, this person is harmless and in need. Written by and starring Rakefet Abergel, there are worse things than being alone in the desert and far worse consequences to be paid for trying to be that brave little fox.
Jax in Love begins as a very distinct type of film. A young woman traveling through the Arizona desert on her way, presumably, to L.A. breaks down at a closed truck stop. Something is odd from the start but you can't quite put your finger on it. When two good ol' boys stop and try to take advantage of the seemingly helpless damsel they're quickly rebuffed and driven away. Jax finds a ride, and a friend, in another young woman traveling down the road and it soon becomes apparent that maybe the girl in distress wasn't the one standing on the side of the road.
The story is captivating, the characters fascinating, and the cinematography and lighting are absolutely beautiful. Jax is, at her core, a broken person, a psychopath who doesn't quite understand the consequences of her actions. She sees that death, that bond two people share right as one of them drifts off into the abyss is the only way to truly connect and keep a person alive inside of her. She's at once tragic and malevolent in both heartbreaking and terrifying ways. My immediate mental comparison goes back to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. The character of the Joker alludes to some similar ideas while being a wholly malevolent creature. Jax espouses the belief that you never truly know a person, cannot actually love or be loved until those last moments of pain as the light slowly dims from inside their eyes.
Would you give her a ride?
Taking on the trope of the Damsel in Distress, Jax in Love creates a character that truly frightens me. Who really worries about a young woman stranded on the road? I've stopped plenty of times to help out stranded motorists and hitchhikers despite the fact that a lifetime of horror movies and a career in law enforcement should have taught me better. I rarely think twice about opening the door for a woman because, truthfully, it's ingrained in most men's minds that a woman in that position is in more danger from you than you are from her. That semi-chauvinist notion is obliterated when we finally, suddenly, and violently see Jax's true nature come to light.
I missed Jax in Love at the Women in Horror Film Festival 2017 and it's taken me over a year to finally get the screener up and reviewed. For that, I am truly sorry. This film was most definitely worth the wait and I wish I had seen it sooner because, honestly, this is the sort of cautionary tale with so many overtures of mental illness and the perception and depiction of women in culture that spawns urban legends. Imagine some young, beautiful drifter simply hopping from car to car, murdering indiscriminately anyone she "likes" just so she can keep them with her forever. It's the sort of story you tell your kids when they start driving just to make sure they don't fall prey to some real world monster waiting for them.