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THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET Young Einstein

TS Spivet film Kyle Catlett

The Young And Prodigious T.S. Spivet

There is a message here and a comment (gun control, emotion vs. logic, perceptions of the USA- old vs. new, East vs. West etc), it certainly feels like it wants to be saying something, but what that may be is impossible to tell as it is swamped by tangents and visual trickery. 

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring Kyle Catlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis

T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) is a prodigy, born with an understanding and a curiosity that pushes him towards scientific endeavour. He is also a 10 year old boy, trapped on a ranch in Montana and struggling with his family after a tragic accident claims the life of his twin brother. When he invents a perpetual motion machine (at least until the magnets degrade in 400 years time) TS is launched on an adventure, to travel by himself across America to receive a reward from the Smithsonian.

At some stage along the line The Young And Prodigious T.S. Spivet is drowned by its own whimsy. There is a message here and a comment (gun control, emotion vs. logic, perceptions of the USA- old vs. new, East vs. West etc), it certainly feels like it wants to be saying something, but what that may be is impossible to tell as it is swamped by tangents and visual trickery. It is a similar trick that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet previously used in Amelie, but whereas there it felt like a method to guide you into the whimsy of the character, here it can be more distracting, as the film consists predominantly of sideline diatribes and flashbacks. This often feels forced, disrupting the pacing and causing this movie to drag through its 105 minute running time. With such a flimsy story anyway, exactly the kind of tale you would expect for the allegorical children’s story it frames itself as, the whole thing ends up feeling both slight and muddled. T.S. Spivet neither has enough strength of message to make a lasting impression on its audience, or a gentle enough flow to produce an enjoyable journey.

This is not to say that The Young And Prodigious T.S. Spivet is entirely a failure. Jeunet is such a strong visual stylist that there is much of merit here. The film is breathtakingly shot, with a rich colour palette that throws you into fantasy Americana from the very beginning. The various asides and diatribes from T.S. are entertaining and visually inventive in there own right. To match this rich palette the performances are equally colourful, aimed at caricature rather than realism. Kyle Catlett is generally po-faced and controlled as the title character, Helena Bonham Carter is clinical and flighty, Judy Davis mugs up her petty avarice for the camera, and Callum Keith Rennie might have very well stepped out of an old Marlborough add to play Spivet’s cowboy father. All spot on for the story book feel.

Rather it is the overall product that doesn’t hang together well, as if too much effort was placed in each individual piece, without looking at how the whole is shaped. Hence what should be a flight of fancy feels somewhat leaden. The result is a noble attempt that just can’t quiet make it off the drawing board.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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