St Nick

St Nick

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Two children: a boy and a girl. The girl is sleeping in a little nest under a bush, protected by tripwires. The boy approaches, carefully dismantling the traps, and leads her to the abandoned house he has found. There they unpack their things and try to light a fire in an old stove.

This is not play. The children are looking for somewhere to shelter. They are remarkably resourceful. The boy goes into the city and finds still-edible food in bins. He manages to plumb in the broken toilet. Together they rescue pieces of furniture from the roadside. He is about ten and she is about six.

If ever there were a tale written for the mumblecore genre, this is it. For much of the film there is no dialogue at all; when it comes it is in brief, potent bursts, often apparent non-sequiturs. The children talk, well, like children, and the film's narrative shapes itself around their experience, without the linearity or coherence of adult thought. It is no less interesting as a result. This approach means, however, that we are given little clue as to how the children came to be in this situation. Just one ambiguous scene, towards the end, hints at something disturbing in what might have been the perfect family home.

In many ways this is a coming of age story, but without the usual comforts of such a scenario. Whilst the girl remains dependent, stoic though she is, the boy is gradually acquiring adult personality traits as well as adult skills. There is a sense that this weighs on him heavily. Meanwhile, society goes about its ordinary business around the children, never really taking in the fact that something might be seriously amiss.

St Nick is acutely observed and poignantly delivered. Tucker and Savanna Spears are superb in the central roles. Insightful direction and brilliant editing help to shape a remarkable film.

Reviewed on: 01 Feb 2012
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Two children move into an abandoned house and strive to fend for themselves as everyday life goes on around them.

Director: David Lowery

Writer: David Lowery

Starring: Tucker Sears, Savanna Sears, Monique Byars

Year: 2009

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: USA

Festivals:

Glasgow 2012

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