The new picture by well-known director Gus Van Sant (Milk, Paranoid Park, Elephant, Good Will Hunting) based on a script by Jason Lew takes us in the life of solitary teenager Enoch Brae which doesn‘t find so much pleasure in the activities his peers do. His imaginary friend Hiroshi Takahashi, a spirit of a dead Second World War kamikaze, helps him to understand his own personality. He is his guide as well as his only friend whit whom Enoch plays the “sea fight” desk game and of course never wins. One of the few things Enoch actually really likes to do is visiting funerals. One day, he meets Annabel Cotton, a girl of his age affected by cancer. Both of them take pleasure in black humour. In the graveyard Enoch introduces Annabel to his dead parents. The most amazing place they have ever visited is the hospital charnel-house and the most funny things to do there is naming the deads and inventing their stories. It’s just a way to cope with thoughts about the death which percolate their life.
Enoch‘s chalk drown silhouette on the floor, which symbolises his loneliness, is supplemented by the silhouette of Annabel. They don’t think they have a future. Annabel will probably die soon and Enoch is restrained by earlier traumas when he lost parents. Annabel helps Enoch to find the joy of being and together they create their new reality. A reality witch is not an imaginary world but the reality simply based on small things, on the nature (birds), on their walks, their plays, their talks and their smiles. Like Annabel says in the film : “Let’s study the world we live in”. She is fascinated by Darwin’s evolution and strongly interested in the nature. Contrariwise, both neglect their life context such as the family or the school
The story is opening in the autumn, when the nature is gets ready to sleep and prepares for the next challenge – the winter season. Exactly like the autumn is gold, Enoch passes with Annabel “the golden age of life”. Of course, they fall for each other and live the happier chapter in their life. The autumn blazes with colours and the scena design corresponds it. Flame colours tone their burning love. Even in the raining and cloudy sequences we could feel a big heat from the actions romance. However, after the autumn the winter comes with snow. The landscapes change, snow covers everything and everything looks differently. Not every nature, not even every existence could go through the winter season and Darwin’s theory works : not everyone survives. The winter is inevitable, the picture makes sure about it. When Enoch and Annabel are hospitalized at the same time both of them wear pyjamas decorated with snowflakes. Actually, the cloth really corresponds with the characters. Enoch wears the dark colours and elegant suits. Annabel is a more open-minded person, she wears more creative cloths. Also a stage design was built up with intention all film long. The early funerals are set up in dark colours but the final funeral we see is in white and once again it corresponds to the current season – the winter – where the film tends from the beginning.
It is really nice to see some pretty nice 35 mm “academic” shots without any hand-held sequences. The today viewer should be used to see hand-held camera in almost every film. The unstable frames became already question of film-making fashion in the contemporary cinema and stably kept camera position are almost unique. Stable camera allows the director to use a traditional staging and we can so be pleased by classical “academic” film-work quite average in this movie. So far Restless was screened at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section.
The film is dedicated to Dennis Hopper (director of Easy Rider), the father of Henry Hooper who plays Enoch Brae. Evidently Gus Van Sant doesn’t really lead the actors and their performance is not at all special. It’s a little bit strange to see such a liberty given by the director who apparently takes account of acting performances, considering that 5 actors who worked with him before were nominated for an Oscar. Restless is a drame but the acting doesn’t surprise at all, except for some moments of Mia Wasikowska (Annabel Cotton). She knows how to look natural in front of the camera and her performance overlaps the others. Anyway, quiet teenagers become soon big speakers and film goes into the dialogues. Fortunately, the closing sequence corresponds to the opening one and Enoch is back to the silence and we understand the situation by the flashbacks.
The film score is under the direction of Danny Elfman, Van Sant’s one of the Van Sant’s court composers. The melodies mostly support the scenes mood. The music doesn’t create the semantic dialogue with the scenes and works like images support. The black humour scenes are funnier with light simple melodies, romantic music accompanies romance scenes.
by Dominik Dušek
directed by Gus Van Sant
with Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska and Ryo Kase
Drame, 91 minutes