Review: Electrick Children
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
The sound of pregnancy is power pop? Well I never...
Pregnant by music? This is the premise of Rebecca Thomas’ unusual first feature, Electrick Children that sees a return to indie for Rory Culkin (Lymelife) and bravely casts newcomer, Julia Garner, as its lead.
A prayer for 15 year-old Rachel opens the film, easing us into the devoutly religious Mormon colony the protagonist comes from. In this Utah-based community, all ecclesiastical interviews of ages 15 years and up must be tape recorded, according to official procedure. As Rachel is asked if she lives "by the law of chastity," her attention is drawn to Mr Will’s new high-tech tape recorder.
Fascinated by this piece of machinery, she steals downstairs in the night to listen to the tape of her voice and discovers a music cassette with a recording of The Nerves' 'Hanging On The Telephone'. The song seems to speak to Rachel and she believes she has “experienced a miracle - an angelic voice [has come] unto [her]”, impregnating her with a “holy” child.
With no explanation for Rachel’s condition, Mr Will is blamed and he’s kicked him out of the colony. Unconvinced an arranged marriage is the answer and now curious about the outside world, Rachel sets off on a road trip in search of the father of the "holy" child, stealing the tape and colony truck.
Arriving into "Electric Paradise” (Las Vegas), Rachel discovers Mr Will has stowed away in the back of the truck. The pair end up staying with rock band groupies where they hear swearing for the first time and play the truth game "Never have I ever". Here, Rachel inexplicably admits she's never tried a burger or spoken on a cell phone but is somehow pregnant. Her and Mr Will’s reaction to their new friends and Vegas living is gently humorous - a drugged up swearing Mr Will has his arm set by heavy rocker, Clyde, after a skate board accident and both cluelessly tag along for a break-in. Rachel’s bizarre preoccupation with The Nerves, sees her following any cars around that are playing her song.
As Rachel, Garner is naturalistic and charming to watch. Unlike most 15 year-olds, she still wears a little girl’s nightie and is complete in her conviction she is like the Virgin Mary. Recorded diary entries she makes are heavy on biblical quotations and act as narrative, giving us a very personal insight into Rachel’s world: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee - how shall this happen when I know not of man?" Through these both amusing and disturbing reflections, light humour is created - such as Rachel's first meeting with Clyde, deciding that he is "perhaps the spawn of Satan".
Aside from being a coming-of-age tale, Electrick Children gives us a sneak peek into a very different way of life. In Rachel’s strict Mormon upbringing, all boys are referred to as “brothers”; ugly girls are known as "sweet spirits"; and there’s a very particular way of talking. Mr Will refers to handedness as "regular or goofy" and makes archaic-sounding demands of Rachel: “Will you tell me who you've sexed?"
Thomas’ occasional use of odd out-of-sync dialogue makes the viewing experience all the more intimate, allowing us to home in on facial expressions, simulating the effect of narration as if characters are under-going out of body experiences. Garner is entirely captivating to watch in this joyous celebration of innocence and self-discovery.
Rachel discovers more than she bargained for and Thomas doesn't taint this by presenting clear-cut conclusions and explaining dark back-stories. Instead, she leaves us to find our own answers - much like the characters themselves - and in doing so creates an admirable addition to the indie canon.
Director/Writer: Rebecca Thomas
Release Date: July 13 2012
Running Time: 96 mins
Starring: Julia Garner, Rory Culkin, Liam Aiken, Billy Zane, Cynthia Watros
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