DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Restless

Monday, 6 February 2012


Restless (2011) dir. Gus Van Sant
Starring: Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, Ryo Kase


By Alan Bacchus

Annabelle and Enoch are a couple of social oddballs who find each other through their mutual fascination with death. In fact, they meet when Enoch crashes a funeral attended by Annie, and they later crash other people's funerals just for fun.

Their burgeoning relationship takes us from one whimsical romantic scene to the next, from etching chalk outlines of themselves on the pavement to attending a Halloween party dressed as a Japanese pilot and Geisha girl. Enoch also has an imaginary friend, Hiroshi, who is a downed kamikaze pilot from WWII. Annabelle, in addition to working with cancer-stricken children, reveals that she also has cancer and has three months to live. Yes, the theme here is death, which provides the only connective tissue between these overly idiosyncratic story elements.

But this is a Gus Van Sant film, and he rarely plays it safe, constantly testing himself and the audience and never resting on his laurels. Restless falls between his traditional melodramas, such as Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester, and his aesthetically adventurous efforts like Paranoid Park, Last Days and Gerry.

While overly sappy in tone, including the oh-so-tender musical choices, Restless is also rigorously bizarre. Even the lead character's name, Enoch, is ridiculous, and the same goes for the anachronistic costumes and the staid tone in which he speaks with his kamikaze best friend. Annie also inexplicably draws water birds, writes plays about her own death and, like Enoch, dresses in impossibly quirky outfits fresh out of the Nouvelle Vague.

The best part of the release is the Blu-ray special features, which contain a completely silent version of the same film. During production, after every shot, Van Sant would do a silent take with the actors using their expressions to convey the drama of the scene without dialogue, or in post-production he would use dialogue insert cards like in old fashioned silent cinema (or The Artist). The final result isn't really watchable, but it's an innovative experiment that speaks to Van Sant's creativity and desire to show us something we've never seen before - brownie points and an extra half-star for that.

Restless is available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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