Film review: Electrick Children

Electrick Children is an eccentric, yet gripping, Indie teen drama that deals with the coming of age story from a completely different approach.

The film opens to a black screen with only the sound of waves crashing for the audience to focus their attention upon. The sound is notorious in cinema for depicting the sinful act of sex. Rachel (Julia Garner), a young Mormon girl who has just turned 15, sees for the first time, during an interview conducted by her father (Billy Zane), a cassette tape that fascinates and intrigues her. Through her curiosity she stumbles upon a contraband cassette tape of “Hanging on the Telephone” by The Nerves. Upon hearing this song, Rachel feels a sensation like none other and believes that this tape is responsible for her immaculate conception which she later discovers. Her brother, Mr Will (Liam Aiken), is accused of raping Rachel and is banished from the community. Rachel, herself, flees the community, also, in a desperate attempt to evade the marriage her parents have organised for her and to find the man whose voice it is on the tape, as she believes him to be the father of her unborn child. However, once in Las Vegas Rachel uncovers more that she could ever have imagined.

Her journey takes her and her brother to Las Vegas, aka Sin City. The electric lighting, bustling streets and claustrophobic spaces contrast to the tranquillity of her Mormon community. Once in Las Vegas, Rachel and Mr Will get taken under the wing of Clyde (Rory Culkin) and his musical gang of lost boys, as they take drugs, play rock and roll and sleep on mattresses on the floor. This modern 90’s lifestyle clashes with the pair’s archaic life experiences and foregrounds their naivety to the ‘outside world.’ This contrast gives a simple rumination of how a child’s life experiences mould their perceptions of the world, as Rachel describes Clyde as a spawn of Satin upon meeting him.

Rachel’s pregnancy could be considered as a metaphor for a young girl coming of age in a modern electric world. The song Rachel believes impregnated her was a song about technology and sexual desires. Thus, rather than an immaculate conception, her pregnancy could be considered to be the effects of tradition and modernisation fusing together in a world that is ever changing and challenging for young adults. Rachel becomes impregnated with sexual desires, alongside other desires which we all attain in this consumerist world. However, the ambiguity in the religious parallels made between Rachel and the Virgin Mary enable each viewer to enjoy this film, whether they believe her immaculate conception or whether they have a more cynical view of how this happened.

The performances in Electrick Children are fantastic, in particular that of Julia Garner, who plays Rachel, as she gives an endearing, yet naïve and innocent performance that is believable and impressive in her first lead role. In her debut feature, Rebecca Thomas gives us a beautifully looking film where the brilliant camera work and lighting allow for contrasting colours and cultures that come from the vastly differing locations of Utah and Las Vegas.  It is fantastic to see another great female filmmaker have such success with a film, as it all fits neatly together to give the audience a simple, small and complete film.

Electrick Children is a magnifying film that deals with the coming of age story with depth and curiosity. The loose ends are left ambiguously open by the end of the film, making it ever more thrilling to watch. This is definitely a film worth seeing and is out now.

It’s also worth checking out the Facebook app that they built to promote the film which allows you to discover which song you were (probably) conceived to.

Written by Shirley Welton who also blogs at Beyond the Edges of the Frame

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