"Thomas cleverly tackles naturalistic themes against the mythical and spiritual idea of the immaculate conception..."
Raised as a Mormon, director-writer Rebecca Thomas presents her début feature Electrick Children with a sense of validity and realism, as she delves into a world that remains close to her heart. However any such realism is disregarded as we are told the tale of a young girl who becomes pregnant by music.
Set in a Mormon village in America, we follow 15-year-old Rachel (Julia Garner), who wakes up one day to discover that she is pregnant. Adamant she is yet to have had any form of sexual intercourse, she traces her steps back to the magical moment when she first discovered music, listening to a version of the hit song 'Hanging on the Telephone' on her parents cassette tape, as the youngster believes in immaculate conception.
Her parents, played by Cynthia Watros and Billy Zane are not falling for her improbable story and insist she tells them the truth about the conception, as they suspect her brother Mr. Will (Liam Aiken) to be the father. However, the pair - much to Mr. Will's displeasure - flee the village, as Rachel intends on finding the voice from the cassette, to confront the man she believes to be the father of her child. However her path is soon halted by Clyde (Rory Culkin), a carefree adolescent who takes a liking to the innocent young girl, hoping to prevent the arranged marriage organised upon her return.
Thomas cleverly tackles naturalistic themes in Electrick Children against the mythical and spiritual idea of the immaculate conception, where we see a young girl seeking a new life for herself, discovering a world she had previously been blissfully unaware of as she becomes an adult - also finding love in the form of Clyde. The song itself - originally by The Nerves and made famous by Blondie - is also chosen intelligently by Thomas, as it's considered somewhat of a pop-rock classic although remains relatively obscure enough not to seem too obvious, and stays in-line with the indie nature of the film. God forbid had she played Je t'aime... moi non plus. She'd have had twins.
Although somewhat frustrating to the viewer, there is a thought-provoking evasiveness to this picture, with a similar tone to it that Martha Marcy May Marlene also had earlier this year, although Electrick Children is lacking in the intensity which the said feature revelled in. This is not so chilling and sadistic, but more jovial with a handful of laugh out loud moments. The mysterious nature to this film is well implemented by Thomas as we aren't told exactly how this pregnancy came to be. It's a wonderful testament to Thomas that she can actually make us believe that the pregnancy could well be an immaculate conception, taking us into her surreal world, suspending our disbelief entirely. Even though we know it's absurd and ridiculous, we go along with it nonetheless. However, where such ambiguity doesn't work is within the conclusion, as Thomas has the rather difficult task of tying up loose ends that aren't so easy to resolve.
Garner is really impressive as our lead, really encapsulating the naive curiosity of the role, also displaying a wonderful conviction in her story, which we need from the character to even dare to believe her miraculous tale. Also a starring role in Martha Marcy May Marlene, it appears Garner has found her niche - in indie, religious cult movies.
Electrick Children is an enjoyable watch and a promising début for Thomas. Nothing to write home about as such, but it's charming and has an original, biblical feel to it. Having said that it does remain frustrating given the lack of resolution within the finale. Unless of course there is a sequel planned, where Rachel discovers gangster rap...