Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikowska) is a beautiful, young cancer patient with three months to live. Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper) has had his own experiences with death and an unhealthy obsession about it since his parents died in an accident. When Annabel and Enoch meet at a funeral, they connect immediately. Annabel shares her love of birds and the natural world with Enoch, who shares with her some of his secrets, including the existence of his best friend Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), the ghost of a WWII Kamikaze pilot. As Annabel and Enoch fall in love, they give each other something very precious, as they make up their own rules for living - and dying.
Review by Louise Keller:
Life, love and death are the key elements of this tender love story in which the commodity of time and saying what you mean are key. There's a delicate vulnerability that envelops the world of Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikowska) and Enoch Brae. (Henry Hopper). She loves life, has a ready smile and is accepting of the three months she has left to live. He has a disdain for living and a morbid curiosity about death. Gus Van Sant's film bristles with an ethereal quality as we are drawn into a reality in which time seems to be suspended. First time screenwriter Jason Lew has penned a poignant and heartfelt story that walks the uncertain tightrope between life, death - and beyond - as it canvasses a myriad of truths and emotions.
It is at a funeral that Annabel and Enoch meet. She spots him straight away, offering him a spontaneous smile from under the hat that covers her gamin haircut. She seems to know he has crashed the funeral. In fact, he regularly goes to strangers' funerals. He also hangs out with the ghost of a WWII Japanese Kamikaze pilot called Hiroshi (Ryo Kase) who regularly beats him playing Battleships and who no-one else can see. Annabel also has a fascination about death - and for good reason - but by contrast, she is an optimist and a self-professed naturalist, drawing birds and taking a keen interest in their traits. Her favourites are Water Birds that go anywhere they want and Song Birds that sing every morning because they are happy to be alive.
You can get a lot done in three months, Enoch tells Annabel, when she learns her fate. Suddenly they both have a purpose - falling in love for the first time, while the clock never stops ticking. Their first date is in a mortuary but their activities become much more normal. They play badminton, run through fields, go ice-skating, boating, bicycling, fencing and make love. The symbolic autumn leaves look stunning through the lens of cinematographer Harris Savides and Danny Elfman's subtle music embraces the mood.
Wasikowska is an extraordinary talent and we are automatically drawn to her Annabel, who sees life through a prism of beauty. Hopper, (talented 21 year old son of actor Dennis Hopper) makes a powerful transition from lost soul and the cocoon created between the two of them is unforgettable.
Gus Van Sant sustains the mood with great depth, yet his touch is feather light and cleverly avoids melodrama. I was profoundly touched by this beautiful film; it is filled with discoveries and surprises and although the subject matter is confronting, the emotional rewards are considerable.
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CAST: Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper, Jane Adams, Ryo Kasa, Schuyler Fisk, Lusia Strus, Chin Han
PRODUCER: Brian Grazer, Ron Howare, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gus Van Sant
DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant
SCRIPT: Jason Lew
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harris Savides
EDITOR: Elliot Graham
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anne Ross
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 10, 2011