YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET, THE
T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) lives on a remote ranch in Montana with his parents (Callum Keith Rennie, Helena Bonham Carter), his sister Gracie (Niamh Wilson) and his brother Layton (Jakob Davies). A gifted child with a passion for science, he has invented a perpetual motion machine, for which he has been awarded the prestigious Baird Prize by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. He leaves a note for his family and hops a freight train to make his way across the United States and receive his prize. But no one there suspects that the lucky winner is a ten-year-old child with a very dark secret...
Review by Louise Keller:
Punctuated by the same whimsy Jean-Pierre Jeunet displayed in Amelie, this adaptation of Reif Larsen's novel is as fresh as the Montana air, its frivolous tone and inventive style coating a deep and satisfying emotional subtext. While Amelie's imagination dreamed up romance, in the case of Jeunet's new protagonist, a 10 year old kid with a serious manner and the colourful name of Tecumseh Sparrow Spivit (Kyle Catlett), the thrust is science. Audiences of all ages will warm to this delightful tale that is all at once a road movie, a coming of age story and one about a young boy longing for his father's approval.
When we meet the family, living on a ranch in Montana, it is clear that this is no ordinary family. They are all eccentrics. Utilising TS's voice-over narration for much of the film, we see life through the young boy's eyes. His father (Callum Keith Rennie) is a cowboy, born a hundred years too late. The description of the living room with its whisky-stained leather and mouldy photographs is typical of the rich imagery portrayed throughout. Helena Bonham Carter is splendid as his eccentric etymologist mother, who specialises in crickets and insects and spills her heart into a diary. To young TS, the connection between his mother and father is a mystery... His older sister Gracie (Niamh Wilson) wants to be an actress or Miss Montana. Tapioca, the family dog chews metal buckets - but only recently.
As for TS himself, he is a loner: a young genius with scientific talents and whose unique world-view is peppered by his wild imagination. Missing, but ever present, is TS's twin brother Layton, who recently died in a shooting accident. It was his brother and not TS, who was the apple of his father's eye: the boy whose pastime was' 'shooting everything that moved'.
The narrative essentially begins when TS receives a phone call from the Smithsonian Museum's representative (Judy Davis, well cast) informing him he has been awarded a prestigious prize relating to his research project about perpetual motion. The phone call scene is amusing in that it is not known that TS is a 10 year boy; TS's explanation that his father is mute but that he will translate his father's words, is hilarious.
The journey begins when TS packs his bag and runs away to Washington DC to collect his prize, meeting a handful of strange and interesting characters along the way. One such character is Jeunet favourite Dominic Pinon, who appears as odd-ball character named Two Clouds and who provides an entertaining explanation as to why one sole of his shoes is more worn than the other. TS is never alone - his deceased twin brother is always by his side.
There are many surprises on arrival in Washington and a scene to watch for is the one in which TS presents his speech - one of the film's punchiest moment. Another highlight is the scene in which Bonham Carter and Catlett have a most public reunion - in the context of the publicity trail. These are highly affecting scenes, depicting emotionally dense moments.
Quirky in style and hypnotic to watch, this is a wonderful film - uplifting, imaginative and totally left of centre. If you loved Amelie, you will also embrace this.
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YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET, THE (M)
CAST: Kyle Catlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, Callum Keith Rennie, Niamh Wilson, Jakob Davies, Rick Mercer Dominique Pinon, Juklian Richings
PRODUCER: Frédéric Brillion, Gilles Legrand
DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
SCRIPT: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant (novel by Reif Larsen)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thomas Hardmeier
EDITOR: Hervé Schneid
MUSIC: Denis Sanacore
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Aline Bonetto
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential Films / Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 30, 2014