THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVETT. Starring Kyle Catlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, Callum Keith Rennie, Niamh Wilson, Jakob Davies, Dominique Pinon. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. 91 minutes. Rated M (Coarse language and mature themes).
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’s family, noted for his often delightfully eccentric films, especially the only am in the. He also directed delicatessen, A very Long Engagement, as well. In the Alien series, Alien resurrection. One feels with his delight in making the film, creating the characters, with the fine photography and the special effects, especially for 3D, and they might have been young and prodigious himself.
It definitely is very entertaining.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out 30th October 2015.