Eye For Film >> Movies >> Tarnation (2003) Film Review
Reviewed by: John Gallagher
Pooh's Heffalump Movie this aint!
Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation was pieced together using an Apple Mac, $218 and hours of footage taken from video, tape recordings and images from his upbringing and, believe me, we're lucky he didn't have the money to add special effects because this is one messed up movie.
We are given a guided tour of Jonathan's upbringing, starting from his early years up until the point when he was able to leave home and make it on his own. Although we are force-fed happy-go-lucky family movies and television shows, such as Malcolm In The Middle and The Wonder Years, deep down those people have problems too and that, in some cases, the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Tarnation starts with Jonathan hearing the news that his mother has overdosed on Lithium, not exactly the kind of heart-warming intro you could wish for. We are then taken back to the point when it first went wrong and told about his mother Renee and how, when she was young, she was very beautiful and had everything going for her. That was until a tragic accident sent her life spiralling out of control, from shock treatment in mental hospital, to being raped in front of her son, to being arrested and then ultimately having her son taken from her.
We find out about Jonathan and how his life was affected by being taken from his mother. He was abused when he was in care and rescued by his grandparents who adopted him. We continue through the years as he comes to terms with his sexuality at a very young age, when he realises he is gay. We probe into his mental health, discover he tried to commit suicide and learn of his one true passion - movies. We are shown each step of Jonathan's life through a twisted picture book, pieced together with video recordings of him imagining himself as a variety of different women, some disturbing answer phone conversations and a few snapshots of the family.
We experience everything that Jonathan has gone through and unfortunately for us we can't say, "May I be excused from the table," because this movie is like a car crash and you are kept pinned to the screen while his family's disturbing life is spilled out in front of you, like too many donner kebabs on a Friday night.
The film has a happy ending, by which I mean that the audience leaves the cinema thinking, "My life isn't that bad after all".
As well as being very powerful and disturbing, Tarnation will get under your skin and stay there for weeks to come.Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2005
If you like this, try:Running With Scissors