Joining a slew of Cancer-themed films as part of this year’s TIFF-slate, RESTLESS manages quite well to balance the story of young love with the tragic undercurrent running throughout the film.

Enoch is a young man who crashes funerals as part of a regular ritual, finding comfort it seems in the company of strangers gathered for such an event. He has but a single friend,  a Kamikaze pilot in full aviator gear who died in WWII. Enoch encounters Annabel at one of the funerals, a vivacious, quirky girl with close cropped blonde hair. The two find in each other ways of bringing out the best of themselves, growing closer despite the fact that Annabel is on her way to an early death.

The film does a really nice job of avoiding the many pitfalls that may have led it astray. One scene in particularl, (her collapsed on the floor, him rushing to her aide) is quickly undermined. The script is wise enough to know what not to do, even going so far as to gently nudge towards the saccharine before pulling away.

The performances are excellent, and while Van Sant’s experimental works are always engaging (if not always successful), it’s refreshing to see his touch with a far more accessible work.

RESTLESS may not be one of Van Sant’s master works, but it’s touching, funny and warm, owing a little something to Hal Ashby’s penchant for the bittersweet.