- Composed by Danny Elfman
- La-La Land Records / 2013 / 35m
A charming little film from Gus Van Sant, Restless was released to very little fanfare in 2011. It wasn’t really marketed and few people saw it, but it feels like the sort of film that might pick up an audience on television in future years. Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper play a pair of youngsters with a mutual interest in the darkest of subjects – death. She is dying of cancer; he was briefly “dead” after a car accident, and now travels around attending strangers’ funerals. But it’s a surprisingly light film, made with a deftness of touch which extends to its score, by Danny Elfman. While it’s a relatively simple score – mostly played by a small ensemble, often featuring guitars and little else, sometimes a piano, sometimes xylophone or marimba – it must have been tricky to find the right tone, avoiding maudlin sentiment, avoiding Hollywood romance. The composer pulls it off expertly – it doesn’t just avoid those things, it avoids taking an overly stylised “quirky” sound, which is often what happens when a film composer tries to be clever on a film like this.
The bulk of the music is made up of very pleasant, very attractive melodies. There is whimsy, certainly, but never excessively. And there are quirky touches, for sure – it’s hard not to think of Thomas Newman (and specifically Six Feet Under) at times. But this is music that is full of, of all things, life. It’s full of the excitement of young people growing up, coming of age. The instrumental choices make the music always feel close to the heart, the homely instruments providing an instant connection between audience and characters. A couple of cues have a full string section, but even in them there’s no excessive sentiment. Only briefly, towards the end of the score, does the music take a slightly darker turn – and it still resolves to something lighter. Restless is clearly not a major score in Elfman’s career, but despite being one of his most low key it’s actually one of his loveliest.
Rating: *** 1/2