Kid-Thing

Kid-Thing

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Kid-Thing is all about kid-think, with David Zellner keeping his main character's child perspective front and centre at all times. Ten-year-old Annie is not a particularly nice kid, although that's hardly her fault. Living a decidedly free-range lifestyle under the not-at-all-watchful eye of her amiable but downbeat dad Marvin, she spends her days doing the sort of things that lots of children would, if only they could get away with it.

Zellner initially builds his film less by way of a hard-driven narrative than as a day in the life snapshot, set against the rural backwaters of Texas. We watch as Annie gets her day going on a sugar high, eating breakfast with an ice-cream scoop before heading out for a spot of vandalism and shoplifting. She may be a tomboy with violent tendencies but there's a sense they stem from boredom and frustration rather than particularly malevolent intent. Marvin (Zellner's brother Nathan, also the cinematographer and producer) is there to provide pizza when required but his fatherly duties don't extend much further than food or shelter - even looking directly at Annie seems a struggle.

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Zellner illustrates Annie's day with the eye-popping candy colours of childhood, from the dayglo lollipop she steals to garish paint gun splashes as she peppers the body of a dead cow. They, like Annie, shine out like in crazy contrast against their drab and humdrum surroundings.

Things take a distinct left turn, however, when Annie comes across a woman (the wonderful Susan Tyrell in what was sadly her last role), who is trapped down a well. We're so immersed in Annie-think by this point that it's hard to know whether Esther really is in the hole she has found, or whether she is just another vibrant creation conjured up to relieve the boredom. Either way, the woman's presence comes to drive Annie's actions in an increasingly bleak direction. The Zellner brothers' film is nothing if not unusual, steering clear of the more formulaic horror story you might expect - and that is indicated by the rather ill-fitting score from The Octopus Project - in favour of something altogether more odd, though often mordantly funny.

Sydney Aguirre is terrific as Annie, her sheer brass neck and cheeky thoughtfulness in the face of adversity keeping us onside even when she's at her most mean. Like fellow Texan director David Lowery, David Zellner has a good eye and ear for the ebb and flow of childhood, putting Annie in situations that feel perfectly plausible, even if they might spring from her imagination. When she makes a crank call, we laugh along with her and when she gets scared but tries to tough it out, we wish someone would give this little lass a hug. The manner in which the film refuses to kowtow to any of the genres it flirts with may be off-putting for some but its moments of clarity about what it means to be a coming-of-age rebel offer plenty of reason to hang on for the off-kilter ride.

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2012
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A rebellious girl whose existence is devoid of parental guidance, hears a woman calling from a mysterious hole in the ground, asking for help.
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Director: David Zellner

Writer: David Zellner

Starring: Sydney Aguirre, Susan Tyrrell, Nathan Zellner, David Zellner

Year: 2012

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: US


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