THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVETT
Canada, 2014, 91 minutes, Colour.
Kyle Catlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, Callum Keith Rennie, Niamh Wilson, Jakob Davies, Dominique Pinon.
Directed by Jean- Pierre Jeunet.
An entertaining film, serious and humorous, some interesting characters, some offbeat situations, and a general feeling of niceness (except for Judy Davis’s character who has an angry outburst and some expletives which seem a bit out of place for the intended young audience). The photography captures the beauty of the Canadian and American countryside, especially if you see it in 3D (highly recommended because it is excellent use of 3D).
And who is T.S. Spivet? Actually, this is a question that the academics at Harvard are asking.
Let’s go back a little. The setting is a farm in Montana. Father, Callum Keith Rennie, is an old-fashioned cowboy type, not so well-educated, but practical. We might wonder how met his wife, Dr Clair, a very sympathetic performance by Helena Bonham Carter, who is dedicated entomologist, continually inside studying her insects. They have two children, twins. One of them takes after his father, out in the paddocks, playing with guns, a roustabout. He belongs very well with his younger twin. T.S.is intellectually curious, absorbed in experiments and calculations, expert in maths and physics. The twins are 10 years old.
When there is a sadness in the family, T.S. decides to send in one of his constructions for a competition. Not only does he win, he is invited to travel to Harvard to receive this award and speak. What is the 10-year-old to do?
And this is the delight of the rather tall tale where T.S.cannot tell the family what he has done. He impersonates his father on the phone so that Harvard (that’s Judy Davis on the other end of the phone) assumes that the winner is an adult.
Then the film become something of a road movie, a railroad film, as T.S. runs away from home, uses his wits as he travels across the country, encountering all kinds of people, all of whom are sympathetic, a woman selling food in a, a farmer giving him a lift, various characters giving him wise advice…
The people in Harvard must be very balanced types because it doesn’t take them long to accept T.S. there are many comic touches as he prepares for his speech, is dressed formally, surprises the public that he is a young, but manages to get out some words for his speech. He delights everyone. We can see that he is young, but everybody can eventually tell that he is definitely prodigious.
Of course, there is a happy meeting with his parents, their pride in him, and, one presumes, a prodigious life in physics and experiments in Harvard and beyond.
The films made by French director, Jean- Pierre Jeunet, noted for his often delightfully eccentric films, especially Amelie. He also directed Delicatessen, A Very Long Engagement, as well as, in the Alien series, Alien Resurrection. One feels his delight in making the film, creating the characters, with the fine photography and the special effects, especially for 3D, and he, once upon a time, might have been young and prodigious himself.
It definitely is very entertaining.
1. An engaging film? T.S.himself? Characters, situations, events? A different kind of film?
2. The Canadian production? The career of Jeunet? His imagination? His cast?
3. A beautiful film, 3D? The feel of the farm, going across the United States, roads, trains, diners, Chicago?
4. Harvard, University, the offices, the social occasions, the awards, the venue? The musical score?
5. The title, the focus on T.S? The narrative, voiceover? Confiding in the audience? Audience empathy for him?
6. The boys, twins, seeing them together, the differences, the clever boy versus the active boy, at play, on the farm, the animals, the relationship with their father? The gun, the accident, the boy’s death, its effect on everyone, on T.S., his blaming himself?
7. T. S., his age, experience, on the farm, with his brother, with his parents? His interest in science, mathematics, a clever boy, arithmetic and physics? At school, with the other students, teachers? Relationships? The project? Sending it to Harvard? The phone call, his award, pretending to be his father? The invitation and his decision to go?
8. His sister, bored with life on the farm, interest in beauty competitions, watching the television, discussions with her mother? Her acting and training? Her friends? Her place within the family?
9. The father, a good man, the farmer, practical, relationship with his children, love of life, the details of his work and life on the farm, in the house?
10. The mother, her personality, interest and insects, study, the specimens, and knowledge? Looking after the family, love for her husband, for her children? The death of her son? The contrast in behaviour from that of her husband?
11. T.S., his plan, packing, leaving without telling his parents, passing his father’s vehicle, getting the lifts, going to the railway, stowing away in the carriage, the range of people he met, being careful, the diner and the woman and her concern? The eccentric man, his advice? The truck driver and the risks? The range of people helping him? His adventures in Chicago, the dangers, the dam?
12. Harvard, the official, the type, the phone call, getting excited? The shock at seeing the boy, adapting?
13. With the adults, dressing, the occasion, the social, the manners, range of people, the award, his speech, awkward, the response?
14. The television, his sister watching him and her excitement?
15. The parents, coming to Harvard, the official and her anger, the family together, their pride in the son? An imaginative film?