Through teary eyes, you’ll come to resent this medically doomed romance – it’s too much like Love Story and Harold and Maude in its chipper quirkiness and naked emotional manipulation. But that doesn’t mean the movie won’t do a number on you. Our attractive lovers are Portlandian, bescarved with a touch of preciousness: Enoch (Hopper) is a morbid young man who likes to attend strangers’ funerals. Annabel (The Kids Are All Right’s Wasikowska, fresh as ever) is the quirky girl wise to his ruse and finding it charming. Alas, she’s got a brain tumour. Their fling, marked by midnight romps in the woods and a shared passion for birds, is also witnessed – in the movie’s most touching development – by a sad ghost, Hiroshi (Kase), a WWII kamikaze. Somehow, he and Enoch can communicate, occasionally over games of Battleship, but wisdom from beyond the grave is cold comfort.
Gus Van Sant directs his players just shy of mush; he’s a filmmaker capable of brilliant dares (Milk, Paranoid Park) and shocking whiffs (Finding Forrester, the pointless remake of Psycho). This one’s kind of in the middle. Van Sant is better than having to lean on a cloying Nico song for pathos – he should leave those tricks to his legion of followers. But any movie with as tender a bared heart as this one can’t be dismissed. As ever, Van Sant is a kindred spirit of youth. If death is on his mind, he can surely find tougher scripts.