This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 1st January 2012
In Restless, Enoch crashes funerals and plays Battleship with his ghost friend, a Kamikaze pilot called Hiroshi. Annabel is a shy nature-lover with a penchant for quirky felt hats. Rather like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, they meet in the unusual circumstance of a funeral and, against a Danny Elfman soundtrack, develop their own tentative love story, bound together by a common appreciation of death and the attempt by external forces to keep them apart.
There are elements of the story that seem surprisingly naive for director Gus Van Sant (whose last work was the brave, challenging, Oscar-winning Milk). This film is bloated with typically youthful affectations – two outcasts wearing sassy, vintage clothing, reading encyclopaedias about birds, and playing kooky games – that may cause older viewers to sigh with frustration, but might nonetheless resonate with a younger audience.
This is not meant to patronise. There is a time and place for the joy and folly of first love, and most of us have been there. The surprise is in Van Sant’s lack of restraint, as he ticks off each of the cliches. That said, the film is beguiling, thanks to lead performances by an off-beat Henry Hopper (son of the late Dennis) as Enoch, and the elfin Mia Wasikowska, freed from her Jane Eyre corset to play quirky Annabel. Like many a burgeoning relationship, it feels awkward at first, but gets easier, at times offering some genuinely touching moments.