Restless Gus Van Sant

Restless Gus Van Sant
Conscious of Annabel's (Mia Wasikowska) impending cancer-related death, she and her funeral-hopping, ghost-talking, orphan boyfriend, Enoch (Henry Hopper), playfully flirt with a variety of potential deathbed scenarios, outlining themselves in chalk and writing scripts. One such scenario involves a speech about birds, flowery exchanges about water and a post-death improvisation from Enoch, who decides he's going to Seppuku himself at her feet.

Annabel immediately jumps up, infuriated that her first, and only, teen love would feel compelled to upstage something as dramatic as her death with his own, prompting Enoch to complain about the ingenuity of their melodramatic script, mocking the birds and the rhyming couplets.

Beyond ripping on the well-worn stereotypes of teen love stories mirroring first love with death (even beyond Romeo & Juliet), this scene defines the tone and sensibility of Gus Van Sant's surprisingly touching and funny look at the innocence and power of first love juxtaposed against the painful realization that everything ends.

Restless is chock full of clever, quirky scenes and genuinely amusing verbal exchanges that transcend the clichés of the genre, making this potential reiteration of a theme something profound without ever resorting to melodrama or forgetting the playful incidentals of youth.

Whether the young couple is sneaking into a morgue and making up possible life stories for dead bodies or sheepishly asking each other out on a date while at a gravesite, playfully poking jabs at each other through the voices of ghosts, the sense of budding romance and love veto the preoccupation and actualization of death.

While definitely a tearjerker, it's important to note that this humble romance is preoccupied with the passion and possibility of fleeting life more so than the inevitability that it will end. It's just a shame that all of this insight and whimsy was compromised somewhat by the awkward casting of Henry Hopper, who pales in comparison to Mia Wasikowska.

Knowing Van Sant's unhealthy fetish with androgynous, pubescent boys, it's not a surprise, but it's still a minor disappointment in a film that otherwise works. (Mongrel Media)