Last night, I went to see the pre-screening of Gus Van Sant’s new film, Restless at 92YTribeca. I had seen the trailer a few months ago in the theaters, but had no desire to see the film, as it appeared to be about a young girl with cancer and her relationship with a boy whose favorite pastime activity is to attend strangers’ funerals. What a bleak, melancholic, and sentimental story, I thought. It’s the last thing I needed to watch, for I had promised myself to stay away from depressing movies after idiotically forcing myself to finish Lars von Trier’s Anti-Christ. However, when I heard that Gus Van Sant was going to be at the screening and would do a Q&A, I decided to go, because I knew it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
If there is one thing you should know about Restless, it’s that the feeling you get after watching the film is far from the feeling of restlessness. In fact, it’s the exact opposite; it’s relaxation, hopefulness, being at ease, and feeling like you can do anything at all, because well… life is too short, and why not? As cliché as all this might sound, I thought it was a big achievement for a film to be able to convey these feelings through a simple story, a dialog-driven plot, and limited locations. There were no action scenes that gave you an adrenalin rush, or visual effects that tricked you into believing in something that wasn’t there. Everything you saw on the screen could be felt in the room, the chemistry between the characters, the soft, overcast warmness of the Portland sky, and the cold, white hospital scenes. There were no tearjerking moments or scenes that made you go, “ugh.”
That said, Restless was one of those movies where everything happened at the right place, at the right time, and therefore led to a kind of… perfection that is so hard to come by in real life. I will not go into the plot too much, for I have no intention to make this piece a review, but I’ll briefly give you an outline: Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), a teenage girl with terminal brain tumor, meets Enoch (Henry Hooper), a guy around the same age who recently lost his parents in a car accident and now spends most of his time attending random funerals and talking to his imaginary friend, Hiroshi. Anabel meets Enoch, our mischievous, rebel hero at her friend’s funeral and “chooses” Enoch (in Van Sant’s words) to be her last companion for the next 3 months.
Some interesting facts/comments Van Sant shared with the audience during the Q&A:
* The film is considered low budget, and getting it financed was not so easy. The fact that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s names were attached to the project made Sony greenlight it.
* It was shot in Van Sant’s hometown, Portland, Oregon, where he also shot Elephant and Drugstore Cowboy.
* The script was written by Jason Wu, an NYU, TSOA graduate, who was working on the story in a play format while he was still in school. The development of the story into the final script took many months.
* Van Sant was getting a lot of scripts to read at the time he received Restless, and the reason he decided to get involved in the project was the fact that he wanted to keep reading the script. To make sure he wanted to direct it, he read it two more times and then phoned the producers to tell them that he was in.
* The film is dedicated to the memory of late Dennis Hopper. Van Sant wasn’t friends with Hopper, but he had dinner with him once in the early 90s.
* Van Sant wrote one of the songs in the film. It's the guitar fiddling you'll hear at the end.
Restless hits the theaters in New York and L.A. on September 16th. Not sure about the worldwide release date, but DON’T BE RESTLESS, as it’s worth the wait.
-- Eren Gulfidan