The first feature film produced with the cooperation of the Chinese finally gets its chance in theaters. Look at the copyright date; it was made two years ago. As expected, there is no mention of politics at all in Restless, and if there were any, it would seem very out of place. Restless is simply a tale of people discovering where they fit in set against the backdrop of China. And at times, what a backdrop it is. Cooperation with China means that writer/director Julie Gilfillan was able to film in the Forbidden City. Another nice byproduct is the every actor speaks in both Chinese and English. They are truly international people. If this were an American film, everybody would speak in English. Still, this is not a big costumed epic of the Chinese Fifth Generation, nor is it a violent splatterfest a la Hong Kong.
Storywise, Restless divides itself unintentionally into four parts. Gilfillan has two main characters each in their own story. The first half of the movie purports to be a romantic comedy, while things become more serious in the second half. One story centers around Leah Quinn (Catherine Kellner, Pearl Harbor, Shaft), an American expatriate working as a translator. The other story focuses on one of Quinn's acquaintances, Richard Kao (David Wu, Temptress Moon, Farewell My Concubine), an American returning his grandfather's ashes to his hometown. Kao is the prototypical American surfer; lazy, loud, brash, rude, and Gilfillan gives him an extremely annoying accent. Quinn also shares some of Kao's American traits, especially contrasted against the humility and false modesty of the Chinese. Both begin slow relationships, Quinn with Master Sun Zhan (Le Geng), a Chinese chess master, and Wu with Lin Qingqing (Shiang-chyi Chen, The River), a distant cousin (don't worry, she's a cousin by marriage, not by blood).
The relationships serve to shake up the worldview of Kao and Quinn. They are both comfortable in their lives; living in the present and now acknowledging other weightier issues such as purpose and belonging. Quinn has a habit of uprooting herself every couple years and moving to a different country. Life is an adventure to her, but she uses this to cover up a sense of loneliness and fear. Kao is simply a slacker, a twentysomething man who thinks he is a teenager. Restless' first half is a sub-standard romantic comedy with the two couples slowly learning to trust each other and bridging the cultural gap between them. It if it sounds familiar it is because it is. Only after missteps by both Quinn and Kao do things become interesting and surprisingly moving given the first half.
Quinn begins to realize that she keeps running away to mask her feelings. Even amongst good friends in China, she does not belong. After revelations that change his perceptions of his grandfather, Kao begins feeling a sense of duty and responsibility to his newly found extended family. The two show a surprising amount of personal growth and Gilfillan's script contains a decent amount of emotion. All of the actors fare moderately well. The main thing holding Restless back is the back and forth between Quinn and Kao. It is not distracting as it could be, but it does take away from the momentum of each individual story. As a whole, the good cancels out the bad, making it pretty mediocre.
|Mongoose Rates It: Okay.|
|1 hour, 38 minutes, English and Mandarin with English subtitles, Not Rated, but some sensuality and some language, easily a PG, possibly a PG-13.|
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