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» Film Forward Review - Mouth to Mouth

by Kent Turner, published on May 19, 2006

Shirtless hunk Tiger (August Diehl) poses a challenge to 16-year-old goth Sherry (Ellen Page): Does life offer more than she’s seen before? After briefly meeting him on the street, she takes him up on his offer to live freely, ditching her school uniform and joining his van-full of street kids. Immediately the viewer has to accept on face value that the pierced-lipped Sherry is a)bored b) alienated c) mad as hell d) all of the above. Along with Harry (Eric Thal), Tiger’s a leader of SPARK, Street People Armed With Radical Knowledge (both men don’t seem to own one shirt between them.) The ragtag group gets by, squatting in derelict buildings and Dumpster-diving for food. It confiscates all of its members' personal belongings. Sex is a no-no for taking away the focus from others. And as part of the group's initiation rituals, recruits have their heads shaved.

Starting off somewhere in Europe, SPARK travels to a rave in Portugal, where Sherry’s mother, Rose (Natasha Wightman), tracks her down. Refusing to be told what to do, Sherry demands to be let out of her mom’s car and hikes back to the cult. Rose follows her, staying in the group’s rustic wine-producing compound, and in a twist that could have potentially lifted the film from the teen-in-trouble pack, becomes seduced by the cult. The idea that Sherry resents her mother for stealing the group’s attention is intriguing, but immediately dropped, while Rose’s abrupt conversion remains implausible. It’s one thing for a teenager not to see certain warning signs, but another for a concerned parent. At one point Rose witnesses Harry reprimand a teenager who has broken one of his rules. The punishment: to chew and swallow chili peppers.

Coincidentally, this is a self-inflicted measure taken up by the teenage protagonist in the more insightful and unsparing Australian drama Somersault. (Here, the sexually experienced runaway Heidi relies on the kindness of strangers.) But because the motivations in Mouth to Mouth are general, the cast has to provide the depth that the script lacks, but the film is not aided by the eye-rolling school of acting. Consequently, the drama, based in part on the director’s own experiences, pales in comparison to both Somersault and the actors’ showcase of Thirteen or even the somber but equally well-acted Blue Car.

Source: film-forward.com

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