The independent feature Joshua features direction, writing, and acting that makes for a convincing psychological thriller. Even if the story isn't as tautly brilliant as those calibrated from a cinematic master like Alfred Hitchcock.
The chaos that the titular nine-year-old character, well played by Jacob Kogan, looking handsome in a sports jacket, induces, is something that disturbs in a keenly subtle way. He can bring a winter of discontent, so to speak, not that dissimilar from the Biblical character.
The personality trait is handled deftly by director/co-writer George Ratliff. With writing collaborator David Gilbert, one is carefully assimiliated into a gifted boy's affluent world.
Joshua is part of a loving family, having a new baby sister who constantly demands attention, whose yuppie parents provide the best schooling money can buy. The perfect family is on view even if the grandparents deeply Evangelical mindset is more than a tick to Joshua's edgy mom (a short, more brightly coiffed Vera Farmiga of The Departed). And, working as a top-flight broker has become more demanding of late for his dad, done intrepidly by Sam Rockwell.
With a cool elegance from the framing of each individual scene, Joshua sensitively saunters with a foreboding skepticism that gradually, and speciously becomes wrenching. The diversion works from the slight skewering of its reference point, making for something evocative and bright.
Kogan handles the part smoothly, as if he's endured the kind of shock than can tear apart families. And Farmiga and Rockwell elicit the kind of emotions that parents have during this kind of familial descent.
The sharply modulated production extends to the crisp editing and atmospheric music, enhanced by Joshua's wistful rendering of Beethoven on the piano, as well as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."