The Young and Prodigious T.S.Spivet: Review

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The Young and Prodigious T.S.Spivet (which we’ll simply call T.S Spivet from here on out) is one of the years best surprises so far.

A ten year old genius, our titular hero, lives on a ranch with his old-school cowboy father, scientist mother, actress sister and aspiring cowboy brother. When he wins an award for his “perpetual movement machine” he secretly leaves home and travels across the country on a freight train to go claim it.

A family film with an edge, T.S Spivet is a resounding success. It has a great sense of adventure and a healthy dose of magic too.

Where the film really works however is in its darker moments and there is a black streak that runs through the film. I’m a firm believer that family films shouldn’t always be bubble-wrapped and fluffy, so a film which is essentially about a family coming to terms with a death is great to see. It even has a bit of hard bad language at the end, so parents beware.

It looks wonderful and is shot beautifully by Ameile director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Rooted firmly in American culture, the main premise of essentially a drifter sounds straight from a Johnny Cash song (he’s even referenced in the film) and the scenes on the ranch, with its grand landscapes are shot like a Western.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see this in 3D as my local cinema was only showing it in 2D, but get the impression this would have only enhanced the experience. Scorsese has already proved that the technology can be used to great effect in family films with Hugo, and I think the 3D in T.S Spivet would be worth paying the extra for.

The performances are great, especially that of Kyle Catlett as Spivet who really holds the film together. Helena Bonham Carter and other members of the supporting cast bring a great deal of quirkiness to the film too, but aren’t just resigned to one dimensional characters. In fact I would say the film’s representation of the characters, particularly of the family are well observed despite their strangeness.

T.S Spivet made me laugh, nearly made me cry, and entertained me from beginning to end. It’s filled with enough wonder for the children but at its core has a great message about family, and really, what more could you wish for in a family film?





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