2015 / Director. Jean Pierre Jeunet.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET is the latest film from renowned French auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who is best known for his surreal fantasies AMELIE, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and DELICATESSEN (amongst others). It also marks a return to English-language for him and showcases his unique and fantastical brilliance, and proves that there's plenty of gas left in his tank. Made in 2013, the film didn't reach American and Australian audiences until this year.
The story introduces us to a ten year old genius by the name of TS Spivet, who has invented the world's first perpetual motion machine. When he wins a prestigious award from the Smithsonian Institute he packs up his bags, runs away from home and hitches a train all the way from Montana to Washington DC. With a personal heartbreak jabbing at him at all times, he plucks up a steely determination and defies the odds to prove to himself that he has a purpose in life.
The film has Jeunet's unmistakable stamp all over it, from the stunning opening scenes to the incredible cinematography, and the distinctive oddities that occupy every frame. On a superficial level the film is breathtaking. You could watch it on mute, adsorbing it's colours and textures and still come away thoroughly rewarded. However, the narrative offers so much more beneath the surface. It tells a heartbreaking story, shrouded with vibrance and wonderment. It grabs you by the jugular and hauls you through a gamut of emotions. One moment you're full to the brim with awe and delight, and the next moment you're gripped with sadness.
During my earlier film school days in the mid 90s I was totally besotted with Jeunet's work. I vividly remember sneaking into a grotty little arthouse cinema in Vancouver to watching THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, and from that moment I was infatuated with his work. He hasn't exactly been a prolific filmmaker, having made only seven films over the past twenty four years, but he has been an accomplished and consistent one. He has continued to mesmerise me and each new film rekindles the same love of cinema that I got all those years ago. THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET is no exception.... it is wonderful.
The film is lead by a young actor by the name of Kyle Catlett who has since gone on to appear in the remake of POLTERGEIST. He is an exceptional young actor who carries the entire film with ease. He masters the fantasy as proficiently as he handles the drama, and Jeunet couldn't have cast the role more perfectly. The supporting cast is excellent with Helena Bonham Carter delivering a lovely performance as the quirky mother. She is delightful and as beautiful as ever. Judy Davis lends some strong support as the Smithsonian PR officer and turns the eccentricity up a few more notches than usual (her roles of late have been stunning). Other cast include Jeaunet regular Dominique Pinon, Callum Keith Rennie and Julian Richings. All have been very well cast.
This film is a true delight and for those who can accept a few F-words and moderately distressing overriding themes, I would recommend it as an exceptional family film (for ages of 10 and up perhaps). Amazing colours. Beautiful cinematography and a bunch of knock-out performances make it a special kind of movie. Well worth your while. I only wish I had seen it at IMAX in 3D, the way if was supposed to be seen. What an experience that would have been. Here's hoping it gets another run because I will be there with bells on!