Enoch (Henry Hopper) attends funerals and memorial services of people he’s never met; you can spot him a mile off. He’s wearing the suitably hipster black suit with a pocket chain, his blunt blond hair cut just so, and his hangdog expression is so emo he’s actually closer in spirit to the original goth stylings of the 1980s (think New Order or The Cure). He also hangs out with Hiroshi Takahashi (Ryo Kase), a deceased kamikaze pilot from World War II. They mill about around railroad tracks, or sometimes they play Battleship — Hiroshi happens to be quite good, always able to find and sink Enoch’s battleships (funny?).
Suddenly, Enoch encounters someone — you know, the girl, his opposite number.
Cute with her own blunt cut, blunter maybe to accentuate her high cheekbones and long neck and those adorable brown eyes that have seen too much life but haven’t gone all cynical because she’s too smart for that. Her name is Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikowska), and she’s got terminal cancer.
So, Enoch and Annabel hook up and wander through a series of cute, arch situations, falling in love as they bravely and quite nobly refuse to let any of this put a damper on their love and their desire to live this short life to the fullest. It all sounds so perfect and ironic, and contained in its own set of air quotes, doesn’t it?
At his best, Gus Van Sant strikes the core of human emotion, especially the disaffected (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho) that most indie purveyors wouldn’t know anything about if it weren’t for his work. Yet Restlessisn’t one of those films. It's cute and knowing, despite engaging work from Hopper, son of wild-man Dennis, and Wasikowska. Van Sant is the true restless spirit here, in limbo, waiting for darkness to descend once again. Grade: B-
RESTLESS opens Oct. 7 at Esquire Theatre.