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Film review: The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet - road movie tinged with sadness

The second English-language feature by Amélie's Jean-Pierre Jeunet has captured its visually striking journey in glorious 3D

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2015, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2015, 9:16pm

The spectre of death hovers uneasily over this otherwise thoroughly schmaltzy family movie. Adapted from Reif Larsen's 2009 novel The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, the second English-language feature by Amélie's Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a road movie that has captured its visually striking journey in glorious 3D.

The titular child prodigy (played by Kyle Catlett) had been living with his family of five on a remote ranch in Montana before a gun accident took the life of his twin brother Layton — an irony, considering that Layton's macho behaviour was always preferred over T.S.'s genius by their cowboy-ish father.

When he's contacted by a Smithsonian Institution representative (Judy Davis) to receive a prestigious award for a perpetual motion machine he invented, the guilt-ridden T.S. decides to leave the house secretly and hitch-hike all the way to Washington for the ceremony. Cue train rides and eccentric encounters.

Surprisingly for a story about a 10-year-old's solitary expedition, Spivet isn't so much packed with thrills as it is immersed in sadness. As the family stays in an emotional funk, even T.S.'s scientist mother (Helena Bonham Carter) fails to notice the boy's escaping plans.

A bittersweet drama coloured with grief, Jeunet's film will disappoint those who're looking for the French director's signature dark humour. For the less cynical viewers, however, its well of feelings may just prove enthralling.

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet opens on July 9