Based on the book by author and illustrator Reif Larsen and from the director of Amelie comes the story of 12-year-old genius T.S. Spivet and his unusual family. With a cowboy father, a mother obsessed with rare beetles, and a sister aspiring to stardom, T.S. seems like one of the more ordinary members of the family – but he is the most extraordinary of all. He makes meticulous maps and charts his scientific discoveries in his innumerable notebooks. Oh, and he’s just won a major scientific award from the Smithsonian Institute. The problem is they have no idea that he’s only 12 years old and if he wants to claim his award, he’s going to have to travel 2000 miles across America to get there.
Director Jean Pierre Jeunet’s visionary aesthetic brings to life Reif Larsen’s quirky tale, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Kyle Catlett in the eponymous role. Here’s our countdown of why you should see it!
1. Jean-Pierre Jeunet
The French director, best known for modern classic Amelie, is distinguished by his unique aesthetic. Bringing to life a colourful palette coupled with dreamy cinematography, he creates picture-perfect landscapes peopled with memorable characters. And especially idiosyncratic characters. With a particular fondness for whimsy and eccentricity, Jeunet’s distinctive style uses warm tones and the warped view of wide-angle lenses to capture a look and feel that is not dissimilar to the surreal illustrations of children’s picture books. Coupled with his usual sharp dose of dark humour, this singular style might be just perfect for the equally odd story of T.S. Spivet.
Jeunet handles the weird and the strange in such a way as to inspire affection for even the most curious of characters, so in his hands T.S. and his assorted familial oddballs will hopefully make up a story as pacy, sharp, and sweet as the original book.
2. The Book
Reif Larsen’s novel, published in 2009 after a lengthy legal war between several different houses for the rights, is a feat of storytelling and illustration. A mix of childlike wonder and adult wit, T.S. is a character going through a truly unique coming-of-age tale. His scientific mind and candid imagination make for a curious combination and spill through the pages in his words – but also in pictures. Larsen takes the quirks of T.S.’s character and makes them literal, each page adorned with little footnotes, asides and images. These add to the richness of T.S. and flesh out his inner thoughts, as well as those of his family.
This all makes Larsen’s book perfect material for a director like Jeunet, whose digressive style often wanders to reveal little intricacies of character not yet seen and which add another layer of humour, affection, and wonder into the blend.
Helena Bonham-Carter is the big name here and she definitely doesn’t feel out of place. In recent years, Bonham-Carter has really made her mark playing an eccentric line of characters. From the blackly comic Mrs Lovett to the spiteful Queen of Hearts, and from a decrepit Miss Havisham to the Fairy Godmother in the upcoming live-action Cinderella, she’s pretty much covered the gamut of larger-than-life ladies and villainesses. Here she’s playing another suitably peculiar role – that of T.S.’s mother. A naturalist obsessed with beetles, T.S. doesn’t know that much about his mother, but his search to claim his Smithsonian prize is going to change all that.
Other cast members include Robert Maillet, Bonham-Carter’s former co-star Judy Davis, and Jeunet’s long-time collaborator (familiar to fans of Amelie, Micmacs, and A Very Long Engagement) Dominique Pinon.
The Young And Prodigious TS Spivet (12A) is in UK cinemas on 13 June 2014.