Portland Teen Romance


12 September 2011| No Comments on Restless     by Sean Chavel


This love story is a real faith-builder. Restless is a deeply moving teen love story for older-thinking,  poetic and artistic teens, made by Gus Van Sant whom is one of our best directors. Van Sant is most known to recent moviegoers for “Milk” but it is actually his avante-garde films focusing on disaffected people like “Gerry” and “Elephant” that I’m fanatical about. Yet this time, he goes back to a hopeful character-driven drama. Enoch (Henry Hopper) is a roaming, directionless teen who has given up on school since his parent’s death (or demise.) He is not looking for anybody to understand his idleness, introspection, and musings but he meets a forward girl named Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) who is very drawn to him. She has terminal cancer with a doctor diagnosis of only a few months to live. Enoch doesn’t think he could ever fall under the spell of love and need for another, but Annabel changes his tune.

I think that if I was at a different younger age I wouldn’t have believed or accepted these characters, but as I’ve gotten older I have a broader understanding of the diversity of sensitive or over-emotional people caught in a web of an unhealthy pathology – in this case, crashing funerals. Enoch, particularly, wants to understand the way of grief for others in a way that he was unable to deal with the tragedy of his past. Unconventionally, Enoch and Annabel learn how to communicate emotionally to each other in their outings.

To find a movie that has such a unique personality and such a risky take in style, is a touchstone that Gus Van Sant has long succeeded in doing. In addition to stirring emotions and a beautifully glowing performance by Wasikowska, another reason why I think this movie will stand in memory is that it is so crisply shot – you become swept by the autumn hues of the scenery. Van Sant has shot in Oregon more than a half a dozen times at this point (memorably “Drugstore Cowboy” in 1989 and “Paranoid Park” in 2007) and I hope he continues shooting there. It’s to me the most beautiful state in the U.S. He continues to let his audience travel to new themes and to new locations. His work is one of a kind.

The incredible strength of Van Sant’s talent though is that he is one of the very few directors who creates scenes that not only hold us tightly in the moment but actually reveals new meaning in the scene we just saw before. The movie has a beautiful sensitivity in that respect. And in increasing hindsight we are touched and are connected more to the people on the screen.

It has also been quite awhile since I’ve been moved by every kiss between a boy and a girl on-screen, I felt wrenched by every single one of them in fear that it could be their last one. The first kiss itself is not just a commencement of a relationship, it is an outpour of gorgeousness, blossoming and a restoration of what is best inside these two kind and tenderhearted people.

Just a matter of taste, I think that Van Sant puts too much emphasis in making us guess as to whether a ubiquitous Japanese kamikaze pilot is a seraph or an imaginary friend. Enoch and Annabel reach a point that they don’t need anybody but just the two of them together – they are their own angels finding catharsis on their own.

95 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “Terms of Endearment” (1983); “My Own Private Idaho” (1991); “Life as a House” (2001); “50/50” (2011).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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