Gus Van Sant is hardly one of the miracle directors of our age, because for every success he's had, he's also had a massive failures. I felt like Restless was going to be one of those missteps, despite optimistic inclinations towards the otherwise. I'm consistently pleased with Mia Wasikowska's performances, each containing a subtle sense of dimension or depth, but as much could not be said of the films she's appeared in. I'd reference my review for Alice in Wonderland, but I never had the drive to actually write on. As expected, the reaction to Restless after its premiere at Cannes has been typically cold to a degree.
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "Van Sant can be good at creating private worlds inhabited by sensitive and/or disturbed characters, but here the individuals are simply not very interesting. The project started as a group of short plays and vignettes by NYU student Jason Lew, a fellow classmate of co-producer Bryce Dallas Howard who subsequently worked them into a play and, ultimately, a script. It still feels sketchy, however, neither deeply developed nor very nuanced. With her Mia Farrow haircut and winsome air, Wasikowska is a welcome presence as always, but one wishes she had more levels to play than brave and resolutely upbeat. In his film debut, Hopper, son of Dennis Hopper, is tousel-haired and cute but struggles to bring dimension and nuance to Enoch’s balkiness."Brad Brevet (Rope of Silicon), C+: "Where story and structure left me ultimately unfulfilled, Restless became a film for the two lead actors to showcase their talents and from that perspective it works. Wasikowska has managed to choose a string of several good films since her major debut in Alice in Wonderland. From The Kids are All Right to Jane Eyre, each film continues to prove she's an actress with something the camera and audience likes. With Restless she once again proves to have a special something, though I could never quite tell if some of her character's behaviors were due to her brain tumor or if she was indecisive on how to play Anna."Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), B: "Both Hopper and Wasikowska invest in the nuances of these characters, yielding a fantastic chemistry that makes their scenes together enjoyable. There’s a nice dimension of sarcasm to their outlooks, which the actors demonstrate best in a bit of playacting when Enoch and Annabel pretend they’re older characters living out a romantic tragedy. However, their shared innocence is framed with flat, TV-ready direction that eventually grows thin. From start to finish, it’s a mostly passive affair, the sort of rudimentary two-hander we’ve seen countless times before. Van Sant is capable of much deeper portraits of isolated youth, but in this case he lets the rudimentary script simply run its course."
Guy Lodge (In Contention), *1/2: "However grim their circumstances, it’s hard to feel much of anything for characters this faint and context-free: Wasikowska is a fine actress, but can’t do much with dialogue as lumpy and obvious as, 'The songbird sings a beautiful song… it’s just happy not be dead.' Computers, cellphones and most other outward signs of 21st century living are conspicuously absent. The press notes confirm that’s part of a master plan to render characters 'timeless', little realizing that someone who admits to no generational connection, past or present, is likelier to be read as a cypher than as universally relatable. If, to return to Segal’s 1970 question, there isn’t much to say about these kids — deceased or otherwise — it’s because this insipid film hasn’t really met them either."