Story-wise, all the elements are there to tell a compelling thriller from beginning to end…almost. Jasmine makes one rather significant misstep right from the start. The story is told from Leonard’s point of view, which is smart. The problem is, as an audience, we are primarily a fly-on-the-wall to Leonard’s story instead of being right there with him living in his skin. In other words, it’s the difference between watching grief and feeling grief.
At the start of the film, we’re introduced to Leonard a year after his wife’s death. At our first meeting, he’s depressed and already beaten up by life. We’re told about his wife and about losing his job. At this point, we feel sorry for him, but feeling sorry for him is not enough to invest emotionally in a character.
“The heart of Tobin’s performance is in how he reacts to situations…”
Building empathy for your lead character is crucial in storytelling, especially profoundly emotional stories. By effectively building empathy, a strong connection is made between the protagonist and audiences. You can manipulate them and play with their emotions in incredible ways. You could shot a few extra scenes add to the beginning of the film and have a completely different and engaging movie.
There’s a reason why every Batman movie has a scene where a young Bruce Wayne witnesses his parents’ death after a beautiful night at the theater. It connects us to young Bruce and explains why he becomes the person that he does.
Jasmine tells a good story of grief and obsession, taking us down a very dark path. In the end, it needed to do more to earn our emotional investment in the overall story to elevate it to a far superior film.
"…building empathy for your lead character is crucial in storytelling..."