Published Mar 18, 2016Teen suicide is, obviously, no laughing matter, but that didn't stop German director Florian Cossen from choosing it as subject matter for his feature-length English language debut Coconut Hero, a dark and twisted coming-of-age indie dramedy that, although ultimately delivering a message about the value of life, gets a bit bogged down by its overly quirky characters and lack of serious sentimental scenes.
At the start of the film we're introduced to Mike Tyson (not the boxer, but an equally unusual character played by Orphan Black's Alex Ozerov), a teenager living in a small Northern Ontario town who attempts to pull a Kurt Cobain and blast his head off with a shotgun. The only problem: the gun is filled with blanks and he survives. But, as luck would have it (or, as Tyson starts to believe, is some act of divine intervention) his doctors discover a brain tumour, and, he decides, if he's able to keep the info away from his mother long enough, he'll finally get his wish to sleep six feet under.
But in that time Tyson is forced into a life-affirming fitness class, and that's where he meets Miranda (up-and-comer Bea Santos), a local health instructor who develops a friendship with the troubled youth. As the two begin to bond, Tyson starts to see the folly of his thinking; when the pair's time together is unexpectedly cut short, he changes his mind and wants to survive.
Coconut Hero is at its most captivating when the unlikely pair are on screen together, exploring the inner-workings of their damaged lives and developing a sort of admiration for one another (which, in a smart move, veers toward romantic territory, but never quite gets there), and is at its weakest when it overcompensates during its most emotional moments with flashy effects akin to Andrew Huculiak's feature-length debut Violent, or exploring a side storyline about Tyson's absentee German engineer of a father (played by Victoria's Sebastian Schipper).
Still, for those with a sick sense of humour, Coconut Hero provides ample opportunities to laugh — it just feels like it could've been a lot more powerful if it weren't stuck behind cheap jokes about former heavyweight champions' names.
(Search Engine Films)