Cinema Review – Electrick Children
Electrick Children hits the cinemas this weekend, But is it worth spending your money to see? Teri takes a look
What song were you conceived to? Or by, as the case may be for 15 year-old Rachel (Julia Garner), member of a large and closed-off Mormon community with very little contact with the outside world. Rachel finds a blue cassette tape in her father’s office one evening, and as teenage curiousity gets the better of her, she slides it into the recorder the community use for prayer and confession. She hears a distant male voice singing Blondie’s Hanging On The Telephone over the sound of clanging guitars, and in seconds she’s spellbound – and, apparently, impregnated.
It’s a surreal setup – and surreal this film is. It’s dreamlike and whimsical, a Virgin Suicides for a new generation, and it’s absolutely mesmerizing.
After finding out she’s having a baby, Rachel escapes the community in her mother’s truck, the same truck her mother used to leave, for a short period of time, before Rachel was born. That’s revisited in an interesting series of flashbacks which tie up nicely toward the film’s climax, during a rather gut wrenching reveal. No spoilers from me, though – it’s definitely better left well alone. After a long ride in the truck through the deserted planes of Nevada, Rachel finds Las Vegas, a glittering but grimey world full of lights, possibility – and music. Her mission is to find the boy on the tape, the voice that she believes is the father of her unborn child.
What Rachel doesn’t know that her brother tagged along for the ride in the backseat, and now the two of them are forced together in this strange electric land where they don’t know the difference between a cell phone and a remote control, where they’ve never seen let alone taken any drugs, where live music is a wholly new concept to them. Here, they run into Clyde (Rory Culkin) and Johnny (John Patrick Amedori), two very attractive skater burnouts who also happen to be in a band. Could Johnny be the boy Rachel has been searching for?
Electrick Children is Becca Thomas’ first feature, and was a huge success at SXSW and London’s EEFF. Of course it’s going to attract the cool kids who pad out these festivals, but it’s utterly charming far beyond its hipster appeal. It’s a film of experience; Thomas was raised Mormon herself, and as a student became fascinated by the pockets of communities in and around her home-state of Nevada. She spent a period of time living with fundamentalist Mormons, filming them for documentaries she made for her film degree, and got a real insight into the way these people live.
With TV shows like Big Love and other films like Martha Marcy May Marlene and Red State cropping up over the past few years, it goes to show that there’s a real fascination with cultism and communities outside of the public sphere, particularly those with an extreme Christian leaning. Electrick Children doesn’t wholly demonize its characters though – it shows them to be alien and unusual, for sure, but they’re not untouchable or mentally unhinged. Rachel is the ultimate virginal character – angelic down to the last hair on her head, she really lights up the screen beautifully and with a gentleness that left me slightly dumbstruck. Clyde is clearly fascinated by her too – Culkin plays the character gorgeously, and his longing looks and inner frustration with Rachel’s pure innocence is really something to watch, harking back to Josh Hartnett’s frustration with floozy Kirsten Dunst in The Virgin Suicides, but for all of the opposite reasons.
The film deals with many familiar themes – teen dreaming, sexuality, incest, rock and roll, drugs and alcohol, a mother’s regret, the supposed great divide between growing up as a woman and growing up as a man. It’s absolutely sensationally dealt with though, and the cult theme gives it a peculiar twist. Without any irony, Electrick Children is sure to become a cult hit.
About The Author – Teri Williams
Teri is a former film student from Edinburgh and currently works in book publishing in London. She is a fan of bad taste films, horror, fantasy, science fiction and vintage teen comedy and has been described by her friends as a “proper nerd” and a human imdb. She can be found speaking nonsense under the twitter name @msenidcoleslaw and scribbling similar nonsense on her blog Enid’s Revenge