The Issue With Elvis is another tale of an unlikely friendship between an adult and child. The gentle drama centers on Dr. Mercer, a scientist who lives alone in the mountains and comes across a boy named Elvis in the woods that lives in a rusty bus near an abandoned amusement park. Mercer brings the boy to his home and tries to help him. He has gotten used to his hermetic lifestyle, but there’s something about Elvis’ mysterious innocence that makes solitude seem less unappealing.
What sets The Issue With Elvis apart from other similar films is the relationship between the filmmakers. Charlotte Wincott directs with an intimate, loose style that brings out the innate chemistry of her husband and son as the lead roles; their interactions, which carry the entire film, are dynamic and visually interesting. Their pre-established familial connection combined with the on-location shooting in the sprawling woods lends the film a singular authenticity and raw feeling. Charlotte Wincott’s cozy interiors express Elvis’ growing comfort with Mercer.
Jeff Wincott has a measured warmth beneath his curt, logical surface as the isolated biologist. He’s exactly the kind of benevolent presence that Elvis needs in his life. As Elvis, Wincott’s son Wolfgang does not necessarily deliver a polished performance, nor would it be considered one of the greatest from a young performer; there are moments where he has a very flat affect and trouble finding words (or remembering lines?) but in a way, it works for his role as a traumatized child.
It’s also nice to see in this film a young person being so inquisitive about the outdoors instead of wanting to be inside playing video games all day. Elvis reinvigorates Mercer’s inner teacher and he happily lectures him on the machinations of the outdoors in his pleasant, robust voice. The only other characters in The Issue With Elvis are in stilted voiceovers over the phone.
The Issue With Elvis is a sweet character study that encourages viewers to have empathy for those with mental illness. As a story of a fractured family finding one another, it has familiar beats, but its good-hearted simplicity and roughness are charming.