Restless (Sony Pictures Classics) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, February 28th, 2024  


Studio: (Sony Pictures Classics)

Sep 14, 2011 #37 – St. Vincent
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Flannery O’Connor once said that the essence of her characters was revealed when they faced their own death. Director Gus Van Sant of late has mined that notion repeatedly in his films, be it the assassination at the crux of the Harvey Milk biopic Milk, the doomed hikers in the impressionistic Gerry, or the massacred high school kids in the Columbine inspired Elephant. He portrayed these deaths with a graceful, poetic cadence, never offering easy answers, while recognizing the beauty attendant in the unknowable. In his newest film Restless, he grapples with death in a decidedly different manner, as one of the protagonists, Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikowska), is aware of her fate, and has ample time to reflect upon and accept it.

The film begins with Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper), a teenage funeral crasher who’s recently lost his parents in a car accident, crossing paths with Annabel. The couple forge a fast friendship, and live out Annabel’s final cancer stricken days with a wide-eyed recklessness and irreverence.

Both cling desperately to ideologies and illusions as coping mechanismsEnoch to his seemingly imaginary best friend Hiroshi (Ryō Kase), the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilotAnnabel to the cold comfort of the logic of Charles Darwin. She dissects his theories with surgical precision, and accepts her own death with recognition of her life as something of a cosmic joke.

Ultimately death is treated as a grand catharsis, and entropy and inevitability are recognized by the wide-eyed characters as being equally alchemical and clinical. Elliott Smith once sang in his song “Independence Day” that “Everybody knows you only live a day/But it’s brilliant anyway.” This beguiling sentiment suffuses the remarkable Restless. (

Author rating: 8/10

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