The story line of “Restless” is not
one that will cause people to flock to the movie theaters:
terminally ill teenage girl meets high school dropout guy who crashes
the funerals of strangers. They spend
some time together before she succumbs to her illness.
The many folks wanting lighthearted entertainment will avoid this one.
It’s certainly not a testosterone-pumped action film.
It’s not a comedy, though it does revel in the offbeat and the
ironic. It’s a kind of romance, but
doomed from the start, so no “happily ever after” here.
And it’s certainly not about sports or the grand sweep of history.
The scope is really very small---just two unusual people who happen to
find each other for a while. But
there’s something about their interaction which tickles the whimsy bone.
20-year-old Mia Wasikowska has recently
in “Alice In Wonderland” and Jane in “Jane Eyre,” so her acting
credentials are already well-established, and even though her girl-next-door
good looks are downplayed here, as the sick girl with the chopped-off hair, we
can’t take our eyes off her, anyway. She
handles this potentially heavy-handed role of Annabel with just the right
light touch. It’s not that she
doesn’t acknowledge the seriousness of her illness.
It’s just that she’s determined that she doesn’t want to spend
her last days as a “sickie.” Except
that her Mom has decided to handle it by drinking, and her older sister is
mothering her, so she’s not getting lighthearted at home. So when she spots
this adolescent-looking man-child who seems like a little lost puppy, she
claims him. Partially because she’s
simply attracted to him. But then
there’s that mysterious feminine instinct of wanting to “fix” a wounded
Henry Hopper, yes, Dennis Hopper’s
son, plays Enoch, who lives with his absent Aunt because his parents died in a
car crash a couple of years back. Enoch
himself, we later learn, was in the same crash, and was in a coma for three
months, and allegedly “died” himself for a few seconds there, so now he
has this very cavalier attitude about living. He’s
suffering from survivor guilt. He seems
to be obsessed with death and dying, thus the frequenting of the funerals of
strangers. (A funeral home officiant
has begun to be suspicious, and has lectured Enoch sternly and threatened to
call the gendarmes.)
Enoch has an imaginary friend, or more
accurately, a friendly ghost friend, Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), who wears the garb of
a Japanese kamikaze pilot from World War II. Enoch
explains to Annabel that Hiroshi started appearing at the hospital, and has
been visiting him ever since, as if his brief visit “to the other side”
opened some kind of portal for Hiroshi. Hiroshi,
too, has some issues with personal maturity. It
turns out that because of the war, he never got the chance to romance the girl
he was interested in back home, much less live past the playfulness of youth.
He and Enoch sit and play “Battleship” in Enoch’s room, and
Hiroshi always wins, because, he says, he has good instincts.
(People whose personal history with World War II is more vivid and
emotional might find this kind of ironic humor a bit offensive.)
But Hiroshi winds up helping Enoch by allowing himself to be supplanted
Enoch and Annabel do safe, harmless
things together---no skydiving or parasailing, but costumes and play-acting
and reading bird-watching books to each other.
They enjoy each other’s playfulness, even if they both realize that
the whole relationship is living on borrowed time.
Better to have loved and lost, and all that…..
If the viewers have stayed with this odd
little film thus far, they can’t help but be charmed by this odd coupling,
and somehow be glad for the catharsis and release that her inevitable demise
will bring to both of them. “Restless”
is not for everyone. But it’s a quiet
little gem that is deserving of more attention than it will receive.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,