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Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper, Jane Adams, Schuyler Fisk, Ryo Kase

Director: Gus Van Sant

You can tell right from the start that this dire off-beat romance between funeral-addicted Hopper and dying-of-cancer Wasikowska is meant to be an art movie. How is that? Because it has that giveaway credit that self-adoring filmmakers love to use, “A Film By…”

In this case the film is by Gus Van Sant, who has made what has to be one of the most irritating, awful films of his career (apart from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and his embarrassing remake of Psycho).

While the production notes claim the film evoked Harold and Maude, the only emotion it evoked in me was the sincere and increasingly desperate hope that it would end as soon as possible. The screenplay is so heavily sugar-saturated as to be a positive threat to diabetics and the characters are so relentlessly ‘cute’ and ‘kooky’ you expect them to be carrying banners at some street demonstration rather than falling in love.

Alienated by the death of his parents in a car accident, youngster Hopper, real-life son of Dennis, likes to attend funerals – and has as his only friend the ghost of a WW2 Japanese kamikaze pilot. Then he meets equally clichéd Wasikowska whose Mia Farrow crop is explained by the fact that she is undergoing radiation therapy for her cancer and has only months to live…

It says much for the overall shallowness of the screenplay, characterisation and plotting that you never really get to care for the protagonists who emerge as paper-thin stereotypes. In fact the most interesting aspect of the whole sad affair is that Bryce Dallas Howard is credited as a producer. Now, that’s show business!

(The title, though, is apt. I kept moving around in my seat praying for it all to end).

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour.
91 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 20 Oct 2011