A Cult as Dysfunctional Family in 'Mouth to Mouth'|
by Stephen Holden, published on May 19, 2006
"Mouth to Mouth," Alison Murray's chaotic, semiautobiographical account of a teenage girl's misadventures in a traveling cult, occupies its own stylistic niche: the movie as acid flashback. Its antiheroine, Sherry (Ellen Page), is a sullen rebel recruited from the streets of Berlin into Spark (Street People Armed With Radical Knowledge), a roving band of recovering addicts, former prostitutes and damaged runaways. As they drift around Europe in a van, scavenging food from Dumpsters and working as grape pickers, their charismatic leader, Harry (Eric Thal), rants about giving "homeless people a course in intellectual self-defense."
The total freedom he promises is really oppression. The girls' heads are shaved, and cult members are encouraged to take part in a paranoid system of spying, lying and tattling on one another. Rule breakers are lowered into a pit for 36 hours. When Sherry's mother, Rose (Natasha Wightman), arrives to fetch her, she becomes an enthusiastic cult member, much to her daughter's chagrin.
Realistic scenes spiral into tentative modern dances that undermine their authenticity. The upbeat ending can't erase the lingering aura of being trapped in an insane asylum with the Manson family.