Rachel believes that God has made her pregnant through music and the film’s plot is propelled with the frequent reminder that the answer to Rachel’s mysterious condition will come when she discovers who is singing on the tape. The frequent connection made between religion and music is wonderfully intriguing. Thomas presents her ideas to her audience in a subtle manner, allowing them to draw their own conclusions and, thus, prevents Electrick Children from becoming a lecture for or against religion. This helps create something that is inspiring and thought-provoking.
Thomas describes how she wanted to the film to be sugar-coated, and that it is. It is definitely a film that will appeal to the younger audience; the underlying themes of the film are serious, yet there are sprinklings of humour that prevent its themes from becoming too heavy.
It is a film of two parts. The first feels extremely claustrophobic; events begin with an intense interview with teenager Rachel (Julia Garner). Extreme close-ups between her and her father (Billy Zane) create an underlying feeling of apprehension. As Rachel is probed about her dedication to her religion, it becomes clear that she has been living a more sheltered life than the average girl of her age. This opening scene is perfect at paving the way for Rachel’s imminent desire to find out more about life outside her Mormon upbringing.
Rachel’s curiosity is triggered when she notices the tape recorder that is present during the talk. Her lack of knowledge about simple technology is completely charming. Unless you have had experience living within a fundamentalist Mormon family, it will be difficult to completely associate with Rachel. However, the character Garner creates is truly delightful and wholly believable. She radiates sincerity. Rachel’s naïve, yet, realistic reactions make her an enticing and fascinating person to watch.
The film’s cinematography is something else to be applauded. The bright lights and sociable young people of Las Vegas contrast wonderfully with Rachel’s dreary Mormon life. Rachel sticks out like a sore thumb, refusing to change from her long dress and look “normal.” Except for a hoodie she gains later on, she is keen to remain herself, standing out against the backdrop of the modern world she knows so little about. The hoodie becomes a symbol of the sight adjustment she undergoes on her journey and, in turn, prepares us for her decision at the film’s climax.
The second half sees Rachel as the little girl lost in the big, wide World. However, her needs shine through and she yearns for love and acceptance. She acquires a pair of red heart-shaped sunglasses and there’s a beautiful scene that sees her standing tall on the back of new-found friend Clyde’s (Rory Culkin) bicycle as they ride down the street in a slow-motion.
There is a definite dream-like feel to proceedings. There are flashbacks to someone’s past and hints at a forbidden romance that all help create a very nostalgic and mysterious atmosphere. It is never completely clear where the truth lies, and it seems a few of the characters are hiding secrets of their own.
Thomas has created a modern nativity story with Electrick Children. Mary and Joseph become Rachel and Clyde, Mary’s blue clothes are replaced with Rachel’s blue cassette tape and they both leave their homes to do what is best for their unborn children. The film works wonderfully at incorporating elements from the bible and reproducing them in an era, and in ways, that we can all connect with.
Electrick Children is quite remarkable. It’s an impressive debut with fantastic performances from Culkin and Garner. It’s a great and original story that the audience will remain engrossed with until the end credits roll. The cast are fantastic, the soundtrack perfect and when the film ends it will linger with you a long time afterwards.