Sara Clements’s review published on Letterboxd:
Acts of violence, violation, and corruption—this is what the world looks like. “When will it end?” you wonder. It probably never will. “Has the world always been like this?” Sadly, the answer is yes. But what makes Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit a must-see is because it’s so pointedly relevant to what’s going on in the world at this moment. Drawing on his own experiences with prejudice growing up Jewish, writer-director Waititi makes a powerful and humorous satire of Nazi culture, a statement against hate, and a look at the absurdity of violence.
Hate wasn’t more so a part of one’s psyche than with the Germans during WWII. Jojo Rabbit examines this society gone mad through the eyes of a child. We are first introduced to Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) as he looks at himself in the mirror wearing his new Hitler Youth uniform. With his blonde hair and blue eyes, he describes himself as “a shiny example of shiny perfection.”
Based on Christine Leunens’ novel, Caging Skies, the film takes place in a little town at the tail end of the war. The town is under Nazi rule and Jojo aspires to be one. At 10-years-old, we had posters of our favorite bands and musicians on our walls, but Jojo has Nazi propaganda, images of Hitler, and Swastikas. Like many children in Germany during WWII, he’s easily influenced and gullible, and he has been fed lies and false images of Jews and the opposing Allies. As a Hitler Youth, he feels he can finally do something important to help the war effort, and especially, to help protect his single mom, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson).
Jojo soon learns, though, that killing isn’t in his nature when he refuses to kill a rabbit, hence earning him his nickname. Throughout the film, he seeks advice from his imaginary friend who soothes his insecurities. This imaginary friend just happens to be a clownish caricature of the Führer himself (played by Waititi). Hitler is a replacement father figure of sorts for Jojo, constantly drilling toxic ideas of anti-Semitism in his head. This hateful belief system soon unravels when Jojo discovers that his mother has been hiding a girl in their house, a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie). As Jojo learns more about this mysterious new guest, we see a transformation in him as Elsa strips away his hateful beliefs. The story then shifts into a heartwarming tale of love, acceptance, and hope.