Atlantic Film Festival, Day Four: ‘Restless’ never able to escape its own quaintness

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Directed by Gus Van Sant

Screenplay by Jason Lew

2011, USA

Gus van Sant is a very dynamic filmmaker that has tried his hand at many kind of genres and types of films. His latest, Restless tells the story of Enoch, an angry teenager who withdraws from the world following the deaths of his parents. Instead of going to school, he spends his time hanging out with his friend Hiroshi, the ghost of a kamikaze pilot and crashing strangers’ funerals. At one of these funerals, he meets Annabel, a precocious young girl who we soon find out is dying from cancer. Their growing friendship soon blooms into a tender romance. As the two experience young love they also have to grapple with the fact that Annabel has limited time left on this earth.

Though van Sant has made films focused on teenagers before – Elephant and Paranoid Park, for example – that somehow succeeded to capture something about just what it means to be that age, this time it feels like he does not really understand them at all. Restless is undoubtedly influenced by the timeless film Harold and Maude but where that film is joyous and life affirming, Restless constantly remains morbidly cutesy. This is especially evident in a scene where Enoch and Annabel rehearse her dying moments.

Though we get a nice performance from Mia Wasikowska as Annabel, the whole rest of the film including all performances, the direction and dialogue seems extremely flat. The premise of the film is very interesting but unfortunately the action doesn’t really go anywhere and all changes in character that happen don’t appear to be earned by anything that precedes them. We are supposed to most care about the romance developing between Enoch and Annabel but unfortunately their interactions together seem rather wooden especially since Henry Hopper who plays Enoch is no match in terms of performance for Wasikowska.

Though the film does have a few very sweet and poignant moments, Restless is a very look at adolescence that is never able to escape its own quaintness.

– Laura Holtebrinck

Visit the official website for the Atlantic Film Festival

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