Restless: Gus Van Sant’s Lyrically Conventional Ode to Beautiful Young Death
Restless announces itself as one of Gus Van Sant’s Hollywood films (as opposed to one of his art films) immediately, with opening credits set to Lennon/McCartney’s “Two of Us,” a track no indie film could afford. What comes after is a stylish teen spin on the great myth of Harold and Maude, wherein love blossoms despite or perhaps because of the looming specter of death. In Restless, the lovers are peers: Henry Hopper plays a traumatized-by-loss young man who finds a reason to live thanks to a dying girl, played by Mia Wasikowska. The pair has a lovely chemistry, and for a while Restless proves charming in the same way that viral video of a perfectly composed 3-year-old girl hugging and kissing a still-warm dead squirrel did—by casting death among those too young to fully fear it, who openly appreciate its beauty; for Restless’s Romeo, the quickly forthcoming expiration date of his Juliet is as beguiling as the rest of her. Ultimately, Restless caves to convention, marching through its steps as schematically as Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of Psycho, with results that still manage to be moving.