Restless stars Australian actor Mia Wasikowska as Annabel Cotton, a young terminal cancer patient with a deep-felt love for life and the natural world.
Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper) is a young man who has dropped out of the business of living after an accident claimed the lives of his parents.
Annabel and Enoch meet at a funeral and spark a tentative friendship based on common ground and their unique take on the world around them. What begins is a delicate romance that has a quietness and fragility about it.
Enoch attends memorial services as a way of trying to overcome the guilt at having not been at his parents’ funeral because he was in a coma after the crash that killed them.
He is drawn to the delicate Annabel who has a courageous, almost whimsical view of death.
Enoch offers to help Annabel face her last days with an irreverent abandon. Add into the mix that Enoch has an imaginary friend or ghost in the form of a Kamikaze pilot named Hyroshi and you have a quirky, offbeat and engaging film that explores the nature of connection and of the guilt and loss felt by those left behind.
With a muted, soft winter palette, the film is a daring and almost childlike view of life and death. In one scene Enoch and Annabel go on a date to the morgue in the hospital where she is being treated and they sit fascinated, making up stories about how people have lived and died.
Although initially the film, with the cute factor turned up to 11, feels like it is designed for hipster teenagers, there is depth in the performances of the leads. The relationships they share with their friends, families and each other teach them their greatest lessons of all: that every end begets its own kind of rebirth and love is transcendent.
This is possibly Gus van Sant’s most guileless film to date; essentially a straight romance, it is one of his most conventional — a complex and moving journey about matters of the heart and soul.