In its astute mix of whimsy and tenderness, Restless manages to capture something both unexpected and quietly affecting.
Restating the career-long concerns of director Gus Van Sant – adolescent alienation, anxiety and anomie – Restless may be determinedly, even defiantly, generic, but in its astute mix of whimsy and tenderness, it manages to capture something both unexpected and quietly affecting.
Henry Hopper makes a bold impression in his acting debut, channelling the laconic cool of his late father, Dennis, but also something of the off-kilter charisma of Gilbert Grape-era DiCaprio. He plays Enoch Brae, an orphaned loner whose only friend is Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot. Enoch gets his kicks by posing as a mourner at strangers’ funerals, which is where me meets kindred spirit Annabel (Mia Wasikowska).
They pair make a connection that helps each of them to deal with the very real tragedies they face. And that’s the thing about Restless – it’s not asking you to feel sorry for California rich kids with boyfriend issues; it’s showing you, with arch humour and dry irony, something that actually matters. Van Sant may have been guilty in the past of indie filmmaking-by-numbers (Paranoid Park) or populist sentimentality (Milk), but here the mannered tone is a well-judged response to the emotional weight that settles elsewhere.
And yet none of it would work without the performances of Hopper and Wasikowska, who once again demonstrates flawless taste in collaborators and an excellent sense of her own strengths as a performer. Not even Carey Mulligan can match her run since last year’s breakthrough in Alice in Wonderland, while upcoming parts in John Hillcoat’s The Wettest County in the World and Park Chan-wook’s Stoker suggests it’s only going to get better from here.
Like the film as whole, Wasikowska’s performance shouldn’t work, and yet something clicks into place. Where Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk could only muster pomposity in the face of adversity, Wasikowska’s quiet, unaffected humility leads Restless to a compassionate and truthful conclusion which, against odds, instinct and better judgment, will leave you reeling.
Van Sant, Wasikowska and Dennis Hopper’s kid. Indie alert! Indie alert!
Top class performances and a finely calibrated tone make Restless an unexpectedly moving proposition.
Henry Hopper just moved to the top of our ‘Dude, You’re Awesome!’ chart.