A portrait of morally untethered childhood, full of atmosphere but lacking insight
This slow, directionless portrayal of a lonely child in rural America is full of atmospheric detail but without a compelling narrative to hold the scenes together it's hard work with little reward, even for a committed audience. The film centres on the day-to-day life of 10-year-old Annie (Sydney Aguirre), who lives on a goat farm with her inattentive dad, and spends most of her time wandering the countryside, smashing up whatever she can find out of sheer boredom. Events take a surreal turn when Annie discovers a woman trapped in a deep hole in the woods. It's the way Annie responds to this situation that emphasises how disconnected and unsympathetic her upbringing and lack of nurturing has made her.
Brothers David and Nathan Zellner, regulars on the film festival circuit with various short films and music videos to their name, offer a troubling and pessimistic view of morally untethered childhood in Kid-Thing, but apart from Aguirre’s strong naturalistic performance, they don’t draw anything particularly interesting from their scenario. Their strengths lie in the creation of potent images, and the most successful element of the film is the use of recurring establishing shots of the countryside to set up each new morning, given further power by the subtle score from Austin band The Octopus Project. The Zellners’ attempts at humour are much less successful: a scene demonstrating the total idiocy of Annie’s dad and his buddy (played by the Zellners) is infuriating and almost painful to watch, and definitely not funny. The score adds some urgency and tension to the film’s surreal moments, but again these only make an impact as isolated vignettes, and crucially don’t add up to any meaningful effect.
Showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival, Fri 22 & Sat 23 Jun.