Writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of the most inventive and astute storytellers in cinema. He has brought us the dark magic and joy of Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, Micmacs, A Very Long Engagement, and, of course, Amelie. I have long ago forgiven him Alien 4. Each of these brought to screen, in their own way, a hyper-real world of characters and rules that entranced us. I look forward to every one of his films.
So, what happened here?
I honestly can’t say Spivet is a good film, despite some nice and unexpected turns by Helena Bonham Carter (Alice Through the Looking Glass), Callum Keith Rennie (Warcraft), and Judy Davis (The Dressmaker). I think the root problem was not that Jeunet was working in English, but that the pacing was way off and the young Spivet, played by Kyle Catlett (The Following) was, well, just not very convincing in his role.
Jeunet films are borderline ebullient, even in their darkest moments. They have humor and energy, oddly celebrating their circumstances even when they are decidedly dark. He believes in his worlds and he believes in love and hope. Spivet sort of does, but really misses on almost all these counts. It drags, is hard to understand due to the actor’s voices and sound quality, there is almost no emotion or connection between the characters, and the “magical” moments, those odd screen tricks Jeunet loves, are too few and far between to become part of the film and feel tacked on.
It truly hurts me to have found a film of his I am disappointed in, but I can’t recommend it unless you are a true fan and completest.