It’s October. A time when Ghoulies, Ghosties and Long-Legged Beasties roam the earth. But if you start seeing the ghost of a World War II Japanese kamikaze fighter pilot, you’re probably Enoch Brae, the central character of Restless. And that’s not a bad place to be.
Enoch is an odd kid. If your name is Enoch you probably have to be a loner slack indie hipster. It’s probably the law. Enoch traces his outline in chalk, as you’d do for someone who has died. He hangs out with a ghost that regularly beats him at Battleship. And Enoch crashes funerals. One day, during his usual round of funeral-hopping, he meets Annabel, a beautiful little Mia Farrow doppelganger that is almost as quirky as he is. The two strike up a friendship, Enoch finds out Annabel has terminal brain cancer, and the rest of the film is about the time they spend together.
This ain’t your momma’s “terminally ill pretty thing heading for the light” kinda film. Annabel isn’t raging against the dying of the light (or if she is we don’t see it), instead she’s trying to enjoy the time she has left by doing whatever she wants. Mostly that’s dressing like a cross between Audrey Hepburn and Zooey Deschanel — I’d like 15 minutes in the costuming room of this movie, a big bag, and a lack of security — and trying to get Enoch to realize that he’s in love with her. She succeeds on both counts.
Relative newcomer Henry Hopper plays Enoch, and he does a good job of playing a messed up kid that spends so much time pushing others away he doesn’t even like himself very much. Pixie-like Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) plays Annabel, and her not-entirely-here beauty is tailor made for the role. Ryo Kase (Letters from Iwo Jima) is Hiroshi Takahashi, the ghostly kamikaze pilot that is Enoch’s best friend, and Gus Van Sant (Milk, Good Will Hunting) does an amazing job weaving their stories together to form a cohesive tale that builds toward it’s tragic, but ultimately satisfying conclusion. Van Sant gets quirky, and lets the story unspool at it’s own pace, something that movies rarely do in today’s crash-bang-boom era. In a world where viewers are pulled along at warp speed through all sorts of stories, it’s refreshing to have a tale that finds it’s own rhythm and sticks with it.
A lovely, quirky score by Danny “Somebody Give This Dude An Oscar” Elfman, ties scenes together and gives a light touch to the darker aspects of the film. And have I mentioned how the costuming of Annabel has pulled all the strings on my covetous, baser nature? All the costuming should be commended for lending a timelessness to the film, instead of going for the easy on-trend pieces that would date this piece by the end of the year. Yes, there’s an unusual amount of pretty in Annabel’s terminal illness, but there’s a surprising lack of sap that makes Restless head and shoulders better than sobfests like Terms of Endearment and Love Story.
Relax, slow down, and let yourself meet the speed of this curious little film. You’ll be glad you did.