Sweet romantic drama from Gus Van Sant, starring Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper
Gus Van Sant’s unpredictable career has run the gamut from mainstream sentimentality (Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester) to experimental arthouse angst (Gerry, Last Days). Restless falls softly between these extremes as it offers a teenage romance unfolding in the shadow of certain death. At times it feels like Van Sant’s quirky, self-conscious indie version of the 1970 tearjerker Love Story but it has a fey, ethereal charm that also harks back to post-World War II whimsy like William Dieterle’s Portrait Of Jennie. The man is nothing if not eclectic.
A first screenplay from playwright Jason Lew, Restless verges on the twee but Van Sant’s controlled direction and the attractive performers help to rescue it from an excess of the maudlin. The setting of Portland, Oregon and the fatalistic mood will remind some of Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. In Restless, teenager Enoch (Henry Hopper) is obsessed with gatecrashing the funerals of strangers (shades of Harold And Maude). He meets a soulmate in the free-spirited Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) who claims that she volunteers at a hospital cancer ward. Enoch is so smitten that he feels able to introduce her to his imaginary friend Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), the ghost of a kamikaze pilot.
The shy, doomed attraction blossoms amidst the soggy autumn landscapes of Portland and eventually matures into an emotional touchstone for both Enoch and Annabel. The lead actors play their roles with a touching sincerity. Henry Hopper is the spitting image of his father Dennis when he was twenty and Mia Wasikowska once again invest the most delicate of material with a sturdy emotional conviction. Restless is far from Van Sant’s finest film but it has a sweet innocence that is as unexpected as anything in his recent credits.
General release from Fri 21 Oct.