views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Electrick Children (15) - Director Q&A
Curzon Soho
27th June 2012

★★★★☆

The latest in a line of films looking at cults or religious fundamentalism, Electrick Children bucks the trend set by Red State, Martha Marcy May Marlene and Sound of my Voice. The first feature from writer/director Rebecca Thomas, it is a quirky, warm and engaging coming-of-age tale. Informed by Thomas' own Mormon upbringing, the entirely non-judgemental tone serves the film well, allowing for an assured and inventive, if not mind-blowing debut.

The tone is set immediately with angel-faced fundamentalist Mormon, Rachel (Julia Garner), in the middle of her 15th birthday interview held by her pastor father Paul (Billy Zane) and brother Will (Liam Aiken Paul). Here, in among the talk of chastity and honour, Rachel catches her first glimpse of a tape deck, which can be used, according to her father, for good or evil. The fruit of knowledge in the Garden.

Rachel, wanting to find out what her voice sounds like, sneaks into the basement where the machine is locked up, and, in a delightful sequence, listens to a male cover of Hanging on the Telephone. Her brother finds her, and in tussling to get the tape back, it appears to their mother as if she has interrupted an attempted rape.

When Rachel falls pregnant she is certain it is an immaculate conception with the voice on the tape the father. Escaping the village before an arranged marriage can take place, she sets out to Las Vegas with stowaway Will to find the voice, but instead crosses paths with rock groupie Clyde (Rory Culkin).

It's a great set-up for a fish-out-of-water comedy but while there are laughs, it's more a heartfelt ending-of-innocence tale. Albeit one where the innocence isn't really all that ended. One of the minor downfalls is the final act. Not necessarily the ambiguity of the baby plot, rather some brilliant contrivances that get people exactly where they need to be at just the right time. Although given the themes and ideas of the film - many characters believe God has them on a predestined path - this isn't as clumsy as it could have been. The script also at times feels a little too polished, but again this is hardly fatal.

Thomas said that she had all of the locations in mind when writing the script, and it shows. The traditional, ultra-conservative community of Mormons contrasts well with the life on the outskirts of the Las Vegas strip. A muted palette serves to nicely join the old and new, with memorable and colourful dreamlike montages filmed with directorial brio.

But the real warmth comes from 17-year-old Garner, brilliantly embodying the headstrong, inquisitive but heavenly Rachel. Seemingly incorruptible, her performance is masterful and her interactions with Culkin very sincere.

Part modern nativity, part rock-and-roll homage, Electrick Children is at the very least catching the zeitgeist. Whether by design or accident, it couldn't have come along at a better time and given its quirky, charming nature, will surely be embraced by the indie-lovers and that make up its target audience.

Following the film, the Curzon held one of their regular question-and-answer sessions with Thomas, interesting in highlighting the writer/director's upbringing and current religious feeling. Also discussed was the unusual, and incredibly lucky, way in which an online Kickstarter fundraiser caught the eye of a producer who then went on to fund the whole film.

The intelligent questions, intimate surroundings of the Curzon and interesting guests (such as Happiness and Storytelling director Todd Solondz and Malik Bendjelloui) make these events a no-brainer for any true film fan.

Electrick Children was released in the UK on 13th July 2012.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)



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