out of Five
Running time: 95
Writer-director Rebecca Thomas' stylish and promising debut is an engaging, offbeat, indie coming-of-age drama with a sharply written script and terrific performances from Julia Garner and Liam Aiken.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Rebecca Thomas, Electrick Children is loosely based on Thomas' own childhood and stars Julia Garner as Rachel, a 15 year old girl who lives in a cloistered Mormon community (although the word Mormon is never mentioned) in Utah with her mother (Cynthia Watros), father (Billy Zane) and various siblings, including older brother “Mister” Will (Liam Aiken). When she finds a tape and listens to some illicit rock music (a male voice singing Blondie's Hanging on the Telephone) for the first time, Rachel falls pregnant shortly afterwards and believes she's had an immaculate conception caused by the man on the tape.
However, Rachel's parents blame Will for the pregnancy and ban him from the community, so the pair of them run away to Las Vegas in search of the singer from the tape. Once there, Rachel meets young rockers-slash-skater boys Clyde (Rory Culkin) and Johnny (John Patrick Amedori) and has her eyes gradually opened to the larger world around her, while Will has a similar experience with the boys' free-spirited friend and groupie Snow (Cassidy Gard).
Julia Garner (who's in slight danger of typecasting after appearing in both this and Martha Marcy May Marlene) is terrific as Rachel, her strong-will and fierce determination belying her frail physicality and apparent naivety. Aiken is equally good as Mister Will (particularly in the scene where he's high on pain medication), while Culkin delivers a sensitive and likeable performance as Clyde and Gard makes a strong impression as Snow, despite her character being relatively underwritten; there's also strong support from Lost's Cynthia Watros, who gets a key bedtime story scene.
The script is excellent, intriguingly choosing not to demonise the religious community (except to indicate that an arranged marriage at 15 is not a good thing) and, more daringly, refusing to tackle the issue of who actually got Rachel pregnant, leaving the immaculate conception option open (though, arguably, you don't cast Billy Zane without leaving a little room for doubt in that department).
The film is beautifully shot, courtesy of Mattias Troelstrup's fluid cinematography and Thomas frequently uses tight close-ups on both Rachel and Will throughout, giving the film a strongly intimate feel and drawing us into their experience. There’s also great use of some authentic Vegas locations (most notably the skate park) and a superb soundtrack to boot.
Impressively directed and superbly acted, Electrick Children is an engaging and stylish debut that marks Rebecca Thomas out as a future talent to watch. Highly recommended.