Restless Review [Cannes 2011]
In Restless we are introduced to Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper), an adolescent male who seems to be obsessed with death. Maybe of little surprise when we learn that both of his parents were killed in a car crash; an event in which he also died for a number of minutes, before spending weeks in a coma. So big is his obsession that his days are spent attending the funerals of strangers, and playing battleships with his companion Hiroshi – the ghost of a Japanese Kamikaze Pilot whom only Enoch can see and hear (Yes I do realize I have stolen that line from Quantum Leap).
It is on one of his trips to a local memorial service where Enoch bumps into Annabel (Mia Wasikowska). Annabel is not what she first seems, and after a certain amount of persistence on her part to become acquainted with Enoch, we learn that she has terminal brain cancer from which she only has an estimated 3 months to live.
What could have so easily turned into a another The Bucket List, where two people try to fit in as many experiences and adrenalin packed days before on the onset of death, what we have is actually a moving and heart rending snap shot of a doting couple’s first and indeed last three months together. They do things that every young couple would do; go to parties, take walks, getting frisky in a wood cutter’s shed, etc. The inevitability of Annabel’s death is of course running in the background all of the time, but it is not the focus of the film and isn’t played upon for pity.
It is such that in an almost macabre kind of way, they are the perfect couple; Enoch’s experience and fascination with death aids Annabel in her desire to live the last remaining months of her life in a state of pure and unforced happiness. With someone with whom she can make plans with and won’t be preoccupied with her untimely death. What the relationship provides for Enoch is an opportunity to succeed in his ultimate desire to be involved with passing and being given the chance to say goodbye to a loved one. This is a chance he never got when his parents were buried during the time he was in his coma.
A criticism which I have leveled at Restless is that we learn nothing more about the characters then what we are told in those 3 months. Yes we learn that Enoch’s parents are dead and how they died, and we find out the reasoning behind Annabel’s passion for water birds and song birds. However back stories for any character are in short supply, and so the film could leave you feeling like you learn nothing about the characters before the main story of the film, and you have no idea how Enoch’s life will pan out when it finished. The criticism I feel however, is unjust. We do not need to know any more details from what we are told, very much in the same way that we don’t need it in Before Sunrise (although I would not go as far as to say this film is anywhere near as enchanting).
One slightly unfathomable inclusion in the whole film is Hiroshi. It is unclear whether we are supposed to believe that Hiroshi is the figment of Enoch’s imagination, or if he is indeed a ghost – not that it particularly matters. It is a little unclear what the role of the character is, other than providing an outlet for Enoch to give the audience his unconscious feelings and concerns. Hiroshi warns Enoch a number of times that he is getting too close to Annabel, and that he is playing games.
Enoch dismisses this, and fights back, insisting that he cares for Annabel. In the final 25 minutes Hiroshi accepts Enoch’s explanation of caring for Annabel, and finally advises Enoch to take his opportunity to tell Annabel just how he feels. It is understandably a way for Enoch to battle his inner demons on intimacy and the true reasoning behind his relationship with Annabel.
What we are given here is the journey this young couple take, as they embark on a touching romance, which even though has an inevitable end, still manages to suck you in and make you care and appreciate the time they are given together. It is adequately acted, and Mia Wasikowska seems to get prettier as the film goes on.
The music which accompanies the film is at times True Romance like, and perhaps it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if this was intentional in the hoping that we see comparisons with the relentlessly moving relationship between Clarence and Alabama. I would not be surprised to see Henry Hopper cast in similar roles again, and on the basis of this film Michael Cera has competition for the slightly nerdy and unpopular character types in the future.
This is a touching love story, which balances tenderness with comedy and breeziness. It is a perfect sit at home and watch with your girlfriend movie, which plays on the heart strings and has the odd chuckle thrown in for good measure. Perhaps I am sucker for a big screen romance, but if you are to then this film will not disappoint.
Restless is a touching love story, which balances tenderness with comedy and breeziness. It's a perfect film to watch with a girlfriend.