City Paper is not for tourists
Restless is a Very Special Gus Van Sant episode. This nauseatingly Hallmarky film—written, uncharacteristically, not by Van Sant but by first-timer Jason Lew—follows Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) and Enoch (Henry Hopper), a terminal cancer patient and literally haunted teen who lost his parents in a car accident and gets his kicks attending the memorial services of strangers. That’s how he meets and grudgingly falls for Annabel, introducing her to his weird hobbies and even his ghostly best friend, a kamikaze pilot named Hiroshi (Ryo Kase). But details about the accident and why he’s not in school are Deep, Dark Secrets. Gotta maintain some mystery, even if your new girlfriend has only three months to live.
The story mostly comprises their courtship, with the requisite happy montage—skating, running through a field, bicycling—and eventual Big Fight, all set to a syrupy Danny Elfman score. OK, some of it’s kinda sweet, such as the tender, lighthearted way Enoch absorbs Annabel’s bombshell that she’s not going to be around much longer. And Wasikowska couldn’t be more adorable in a Mia Farrow pixie cut, her character unreasonably bright. But Enoch is a bit of a childish tool, highly irritating instead of intriguing in his sudden bouts of silence (Annabel eventually guesses why he’s not in school) and pouty outbursts (he yells at Annabel’s doctor and even at his parents’ grave, hissing “I hate you! I hate you!”).
Perhaps winking at the film’s flaws, Lew inserts a play-within-the-movie that Enoch criticizes by bitching, “It’s sappy and corny!” Yes, Restless sure is, so much so that you’ll forget you’re watching a Van Sant production and not the Lifetime channel.