Dark, disturbing and occasionally downright heartbreaking, this is an intriguingly written coming of age tale with a terrific, decidedly un-Juno-like central performance from Ellen Page.
What's it all about?
Mouth to Mouth stars Ellen Page as Sherry, a lip-ringed teenage runaway who joins a cult called SPARK (Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge) while bumming her way around Europe. Ostensibly SPARK seems dedicated to picking up homeless drug addicts and helping them get clean, but the charismatic leader, Harry (Eric Thal) keeps a suspiciously tight reign on his acolytes.
Just as Sherry makes up her mind to leave, her attractive mother (Natasha Wightman) comes looking for her and ends up joining the cult herself, exacerbating the tension between mother and daughter.
Ellen Page gives a completely different performance to the wise-cracking teens we've seen in Juno and the upcoming Smart People. Sherry is awkward and clunky, saying very little and hiding herself away in baggy t-shirts and heavy make-up – as such she's an instantly recognisable teenager and you're painfully aware that she doesn't really know what she's getting herself into.
In addition, Eric Thal has a terrifically intimidating presence as the burly, muscular Harry (who spends the entire film shirtless, Tyler Durden-style), while there's strong support from Wightman as Sherry's flighty mother (who you just want to slap) and from Maxwell McCabe-Lokos as Mad Ax, who starts out incredibly annoying, but gradually becomes Sherry's best friend.
Writer-director Alison Murray (who left home at 15) maintains an uneasy atmosphere where you're never quite sure what's going to happen next - one moment she'll have a delightful, Hal Hartley-esque moment of impromptu choreography (with Sherry and her mother goofing around and dancing), the next there'll be a heart-breaking or disturbing scene, such as when Sherry loses her virginity.
Mouth to Mouth is an unusual, thought-provoking and frequently unsettling film that deserves to be seen. Highly recommended.
"Mouth to Mouth," Alison Murray's chaotic, semiautobiographical account of a teenage girl's misadventures in a traveling cult, occupies its own stylistic niche: the movie as acid flashback. Its antiheroine, Sherry (Ellen Page), is a sullen rebel recruited from the streets of Berlin into Spark (Street People Armed With Radical Knowledge), a roving band of recovering addicts, former prostitutes and damaged runaways. As they drift around Europe in a van, scavenging food from Dumpsters and working as grape pickers, their charismatic leader, Harry (Eric Thal), rants about giving "homeless people a course in intellectual self-defense."
The total freedom he promises is really oppression. The girls' heads are shaved, and cult members are encouraged to take part in a paranoid system of spying, lying and tattling on one another. Rule breakers are lowered into a pit for 36 hours. When Sherry's mother, Rose (Natasha Wightman), arrives to fetch her, she becomes an enthusiastic cult member, much to her daughter's chagrin.
Realistic scenes spiral into tentative modern dances that undermine their authenticity. The upbeat ending can't erase the lingering aura of being trapped in an insane asylum with the Manson family.