…Van Sant

Restless (2011) Dir. Gus Van Sant

“A boy meets a girl” is still the best formula for a movie. What if a boy meets a girl at a funeral? Gus Van Sant begins his story at a memorial, which the boy and the girl attend. Nothing would be out of ordinary except two things: the deceased was a complete stranger to both of them, and it’s not the first funeral they’ve crushed for fun.

The girl, Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikowska) does not come from this time and place. Positively obsessed with birds, she spends time memorizing facts from scientific books. She dresses like an old lady: with a certain amount of vintage class and elegance (old-fashioned hats and gowns). The boy, Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper), does not come from this time and place, either. He’s introverted, reclusive, withdrawn. When their eyes meet at the memorial, it becomes inevitable they’re gonna be together. It is when Van Sant begins his version of Love Story.

The movie intertwines the theme of love and death. Their love story starts like any other teenage love story. They take long walks, talking and holding hands until Annabel kisses Enoch in the most charming and simple scene: she just stands on her toes and kisses him with an unbearable lightness of her being. They become inseparable, devoting each moment to being together. Once again, nothing would be out of ordinary except one thing: she has a brain cancer and only 3 months to live. Their death story doesn’t differ from other teenage death stories. She is dying like many other patients at her hospital (she recognizes one girl patient when they visit a hospital morgue, which would be an unusual place for a date, but not for them). He has lost his parents in a car accident, and can’t get over the trauma of the event. Now, they have to face her death together and learn how to deal with it. Thus, we share their feeling that every fleeting moment between them is precious and unforgettable. And every passing moment brings them closer to being apart.

The movie also intertwines the theme of friendship and family bonds. Enoch has a best friend, a Japanese kamikaze Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), who, yes, is a ghost, but is also a friend Enoch may always count on. Hiroshi started visiting Enoch just after the fatal car accident and they hit it off. After all, not all ghosts are mean and scary. The only problem is Hiroshi feels jealous for Enoch and Annabel. He almost feels neglected and abandoned when Enoch spends more time with her than with him. At the same time, there’s Annabel’s family, especially her sister, Elisabeth (Schuyler Fisk). Annabel’s big sister strikes as overprotective and serious. She approaches the young couple’s relationship with caution and distrust. She doesn’t want Annabel to get hurt. Annabel and Enoch need to convince Hiroshi and Elisabeth that their love is real and deep, and to some extent, they need to convince themselves although Annabel’s dying doesn’t make things easier.

Gus Van Sant gives us a combination of light-hearted, hilarious scenes about death, and serious, thoughtful ones about love. He proves that maintaining a relationship is as difficult as facing death of the loved ones. At the same time, he doesn’t overwhelm us with deep thoughts and incomprehensible images, but rather tones down the heavy themes with peaceful music and positive energy that burst from the main characters. What’s more, there are a few scenes that make this movie worth watching. When Enoch and Annabel have sex for the first time, it’s magic. The camera follows their faces closely; there’s no music; we can only hear them breathing; there’s no rush, only calmness and sensuality of their first touch. Another scene is when they role play her death — to make it more dramatic they have to rehearse it. They even have the script! Lastly, there comes the ending, when we feel sad and happy, simultaneously. The concluding scenes are brilliant, but to say anything more would spoil the pleasure. When the movie ended, I had a wide happy smile, feeling safe and satisfied. One of Van Sant’s best pictures that you simply cannot miss!

Long days, pleasant nights,

Veronica Bazydlo

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