Van Sant Gives Us a Girl, a Boy, Death and Love
“Restless” is the story of a terminally ill teenage girl, Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) who falls for a boy, Enoch Henry Hopper) who enjoys going to funerals. Enoch is restless with living as is Annabel. Enoch became interested in death when both his parents and the life he once knew died. Annabel has cancer and does not fight her illness and is fine with spending the rest of her days studying nature. Then they met each other.
Unconventional boy meets unconventional girl. We have not had such odd characters on film but they are so far removed from everything that it is difficult to understand them. Our characters are two people in limbo who are somewhere between life and death. Enoch’s parents were killed in a car crash which almost killed him as well but he is alive and healthy but has dropped out of life. Annabel is full of life as death closes in on her—she only has three months to live. Both of them exist in that area between life and death but in different ways. They need each other—one has to learn to return to the living and the other has to be ready to die with honor.
Then there is Hiroshi, Enoch’s imaginary friend who is a ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from the Second World War and he roams nowhere land. Everything in the film is hidden in a world that is not real. We, however, see their world as real and these two people roam around each other before they come together. They fall in love for the first and for Annabel, the only time. Hopper and Wasikowska turn in excellent performances and throughout the film is the feeling of impending death. The film is a dance with death which is actually a dance with life. Enoch and Annabel hold onto each other and learn the meaning of life.
Van Sant tells us an unconventional story and he does so conventionally. The story is sensitive and tender and deals with what teens go through and what it means to mature. He is able to create a mood that is deep but never becomes melodramatic. Van Sant has spent a lot of his career telling us about the younger generation and he handles death in a creative manner.