Cannes: Henry Hopper, Son of Dennis, Charms in Van Sant's ‘Restless’

How do you describe that ability to connect with a camera, to show vulnerability and confidence at the same time? Hopper has it

Henry Hopper, son of Dennis, is the quiet star of the charming  “Restless,” the anticipated Gus Van Sant film which screened in competition on Thursday morning.

In “Restless,” his first film,  the 20-year-old actor  plays Enoch, a character with loss on his mind and a yawning ache in his heart.

Hopper, with a Dennis Hopper-circa-1962 expression and Owen Wilson-circa-1999 hair, instinctively makes you feel and like him deeply.

Hopper's face alone is a discovery – pensive, slightly pouting and still rather innocent.  How do you describe that ability to connect with a camera, to show vulnerability and confidence at the same time? He has it.

I may write the word “cancer patient” in the next sentence but please don’t stop reading. Mia Wasikowska (“The Kids Are All Right”) plays Annabel, who has terminal cancer but doesn’t wallow in it.

Naturally, the two off-kilter, out of synch youngsters fall in love.

The circumstances don’t matter so much really. What is indelible about the film are these two fresh performances by young actors who carry little baggage around.

Van Sant has made a relatively unencumbered film, and it is welcome, given that his last major film, “Elephant,” dealt with epic issues of society and violence. (And it’s been awhile; that film did win the Golden Palm in 2003.)

Annabel lives in the moment of her waning life, embracing the beauty of Nature while finding a way into Enoch’s wounded heart. Enoch, who has lost his own parents in a tragic accident, enriches Annabel’s time on earth. (One has to wonder how Hopper losing his father to cancer a year ago may have affected his performance.)  

Written by Jason Lew, the screenplay was initially a series of short plays. Lew was a classmate at New York University of Bryce Dallas Howard, who produced the film with Dad, Ron, and Brian Grazer.

Sony Pictures Classics will release the film later this year.