Review: By Ben Boquist
This melancholic love story begins with a morbid young man named Enoch, who attends strangers’ funerals after a car accident claims his parents. At one of these funerals, he meets the sweet, optimistic and terminally ill Annabel. The two become fast friends and their fatalistic romance unfolds in a series of lingering shots and whimsical musical sequences (compliments of composer Danny Elfman.)
Fan’s of Gus Van Sant’s other films know what to expect, and he is true to form here. His characters are nuanced and well drawn. Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre) is likeable and sympathetic as Annabel. And new comer Henry Hopper (son of actor Dennis Hopper) is surprisingly good as the awkward, moody Enoch. But the best scenes belong to Ryo Kase, who plays Enoch’s best friend, the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot killed in world war II.
Kase also get’s the film’s best lines. In one scene, he objects to the American handshake in favor of the Japanese bow (“White people – you have to grab everything!”)
Still, even in it’s lighter moments, the film never lets you forget about the inevitable tragedy waiting at the end. And finally, when it comes, it fails to generate the sort of hope or devastation that might make the journey worth it.
In short, this morbid romance about death is a hard one to classify. Some will find it too sentimental; others, too dark.