Directed by Mike Mills. US. 2005.

Cast: Lou Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vince Vaughan, Keanu Reeves.

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A debut feature from video director Mike Mills and this one is a fantastic independent production which is in the same vein as Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko balancing a wicked black humour with a reflective lyrical tone in its photography and soundtrack. 

Justin has a habit, he is seventeen, still sucks his thumb and is not fulfilling his potential at school until he is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and is prescribed Ritalin, which in turn leads to a change in fortune and success.  While the drugs do give him some relief, he still has questions he needs answers to and unlike going to his parents – who themselves are having problems with growing up – he approaches his orthodontist (Reeves, exceptional) who gives new age advice which again provides little answers.  The film tells us that the person with the answers is usually the person asking the questions.  Themes of loss; lost opportunities, loss of youth (‘Don’t call me Dad, it makes me feel old’.) and realising your limitations are here; but whereas Donnie has a downbeat ending, this ending offers the thumb sucker some short term goal achievement to match his ambition. 

Shot with anamorphic lenses (usually reserved for hip-hop videos) which floats through scenes, it enables the director to create a sense of time and reality together and enable him to initialise his appreciation for the work of Dogme.

At times the film is laugh out loud, especially Reeves’ performance that shows he has a wonderful comic acting ability, combined with Vaughan you always get some quick quips. Essentially, the film is reserved for Pucci as Justin who wanders through the film, who has that mixture of wide-eyed innocence and apprehension of years ahead.

Unlike Donnie which was set in the late 1980s, this is in the now and so its ambiguous open ending is more appropriate in today’s political and social climate.  This is highly recommended and essential viewing for all.

Jamie Garwood
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