Gus Van Sant, who won the Palme d’Or in 2003 for the exquisite Elephant, returns to the Croisette for his new movie (and the opener of mixed-bag category Un Certain Regard), Restless.
The film revolves around Enoch (Henry Hopper, son of Dennis Hopper) and Annabel, (Mia Wasikowska, The Kids Are Alright) who meet at a memorial service for people they didn’t know. Their similar (see: quirky) personalities connect, and they continue to meet up, with just a hint of romance. Their subsequent “dates” involve more funerals. And trips to the graveyard.
Calling them “death-obsessed” would be a little disrespectful, though. Annabel and Enoch are just fascinated with the idea of it, as they both have had their fair share of mortality. Annabel volunteers in the cancer ward at the local hospital, and Enoch’s parents died in a car crash, with him only just escaping with his life. He later claims in the movie that he actually did “die” in the hospital, but doctors were able to revive him from the brink. The twist here is that Enoch’s brief encounter with death linked him with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot named Hiroshi (Ryo Kase). Before Annabel, Hiroshi was Enoch’s one and only friend. His purpose in the film is simply (and rather obviously) for Enoch to monologue on screen without actually talking to anyone, but it begins to wane. Fast.
While I don’t particularly think the Hiroshi element to this bizarre love story is ultimately bad, Kase’s acting certainly is. His performance picks up a little near the final act, but the main problem here is more the script than it is anything else. Assuredly, Hopper and Wasikowska certainly both prove that they’re rising talent to look out for, but the lines are riddled with silly and contrived dialogue that never really surfaces beyond passable.
It’s an interesting idea, but sadly Restless will likely be known in years to come for its ability to cure even the worst cases of insomnia. Perhaps knowing that Harold and Maude pulled off the death-driven romantic comedy much better than what Van Sant tries makes me hesitant to accept Restless, but that’s just the way the reel unspools, I suppose.
It’s a shame that this was such a middling production. Elephant is a masterpiece, and one of my favourite films of all time. I was definitely hoping for a repeat in quality, but alas.