A sun-kissed, music-infused fable of teenage kicks and an immaculate conception, Electrick Children is a euphonious coming-of-age story from young American film-maker Rebecca Thomas. It’s a dreamy, lo-fi independent film that manages to charm without pretension.
New wave punk has a visceral rhythm to make a foot stomp, but the Nerves’ classic ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ can also impregnate. Rachel (Julia Garner) is a virginal 15 year-old and fundamental Mormon in her Utah community until an apparent miracle from God opens her eyes to an alternative world. After inadvertently finding a blue cassette tape she listens to the anthemic punk tune and mysteriously falls pregnant.
When explaining her curious circumstance to her peers it is decided by her pastor father Paul (Billy Zane) that she will marry a good Mormon boy in order to save face. Bewildered that no-one believes that the child she bears was conceived at the agency of the Holy Spirit via a pop song, she flees in an old pick-up truck to find the ‘man on the cassette tape’.
More love and awakening than fear and loathing; starry-eyed Rachel – accompanied by her conformist cousin Mr. Will (Liam Aiken) – sets out for the bright neon glow of Las Vegas. The pastel coldness of Utah is replaced by the warm haze of America’s playground and, after befriending grungy scenesters Clyde (Rory Culkin) and Johnny (John Patrick Amedori), the pair are exposed to all the joyously sinful practices of teenage rebellion.
As sweet as a first kiss, Electrick Children celebrates post-pubescent liberation with a shoe-gazing, voguish style. The cutely enigmatic Rachel seduces forlorn hipster Clyde with her unblemished innocence and it is her wide-eyed fascination of pop songs that rekindles a fuzzy feeling of being a carefree teenager and discovering real music for the first time. The explanation behind her pregnancy remains ambiguous throughout but Rachel’s hopeful belief in its divinity and Clyde’s unabridged support for her is endearing in an increasingly transgressive world where the concept of chastity is fading.
It is a story as much about wholesomeness as it is about youth in revolt, like a Gus Van Sant film but with heightened romance and possibility. The film is also beautifully shot with a salient attention to lighting and a harmonious soundscape accompanies the story dictating both its tone and narrative.
Although rough around the edges, Electrick Children is a beautifully designed and hip debut feature with absorbing themes. A contemporary nativity story from the gospel of youthful rebellion; one of the coolest movies of the summer.
Best performances: Julia Garner and Rory Culkin are perfectly cast as the romantic leads.
Watch this is you liked: Almost Famous, Dazed & Confused.
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