We meet Sherry (Ellen Page, Hard Candy, X-Men 3) wandering the streets of Berlin. A head-strong, yet confused and impressionable runaway, she seems lost and sad, but something in her ignites when she meets a nomadic crew of anarchists/activists/outcasts calling themselves, SPARK (Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge). At first it's their cute barker, Tiger (August Diehl), that piques her interest, but it will be their hunky and charismatic leader, Harry (Eric Thal), that inspires her to join their world. It becomes obvious when she calls her mom from a pay phone that Sherry's troubled home life and need to belong are the real motivating factors, however.
The pacing from the outset is manic, and before we know it we're riding in their Mercedes bus to a wild rave and getting fucked-up on booze, drugs, and smoke. Like many street-punks, this gang offer up a dichotic M.O. consisting of altruistic ethics and reckless abandon and personal self-destruction. On the one hand they're setting up guerilla soup kitchens and on the other hand they're dumpster diving and fighting in the streets. One of the kids dies in a tragic accident and director Alison Murray uses this as an opportunity to utilize her choreography skills, as she turns the mourning into an interpretive dance. It was both corny and moving, if that's possible. And while one of the older members acts as both matriarch and medic (Diana Greenwood is excellent as, Dog) there is a sense of hopelessness amidst their utopian liberation.
Things should be getting better by the time they get to their final destination - a blissful job picking grapes in Portugal - but when your mom wants to join your radical collective, you know you're in trouble. Sherry's mom, Rose (Natasha Wightman), goes from passing out "missing" flyers in hopes of bringing her back home to succumbing to Harry's spell herself. The possible tension with mom and daughter competing for the same man (even if subtly) is squandered when Harry very quickly transitions from charming and manipulative to violent and draconic. This, unfortunately, is also when the film moves from a unique coming-of-age story into something out of Lord of the Flies (or 28 Days Later, The Beachor, or even that Star Trek episode, "And The Children Shall Lead."). How's a girl supposed to run away from home when mom is running away with you? How are you supposed to go back home when mom isn't ready to go back home? Alison Murray shows us that no matter how radical and rebellious a kid can be, they still long for structure, and more importantly love.
Shot in 16mm blown up to 35 and blown up again to HD, the final widescreen presentation has both depth and grain. Many times they go for that blown-out look, and the saturated colors go along way, especially in lushly scenic, Portugal.
Sound: The soundtrack, with it's jungle and techno beats, is where it needed to be and on the whole, the Dolby Digital mix amped up both dialogue and mood.
Behind The Scenes In this section we see all the hard work that went into rehearsing for Mouth To Mouth It's mostly the actors working out their dance and fight routines. We also see the "filming" of the rave scene, which must've have been fun to be a part of, as even the camera crew start dancing.
Trailers: We get the trailer to Mouth To Mouth, Carny (this instantly looks like a must-rent), and Train On The Brain, all directed by Alison Murray. There are also other Strand trailers.
Mouth To Mouth moves fast and covers a vast range of important issues (from abuse, to addiction, to sexual awakening, to self-realization, and more), but while its ambition and energy keeps you interested until the end, one gets increasingly disappointed at the possibly precious tangents left behind (not that we absolutely need Strand to push the field of gay and lesbian studies, but the pairing with Nancy (played with spunk and heart by, Beatrice Brown), could of offered much more. Instead, Murray burns Sherry's romance possibilities at both ends, leaving us hot and literally bothered in the end) As much as Ellen Page digs deep into her role, this story which is in-large part about development, lacks just that; she's wearing a "Spark" tee-shirt in two seconds, and it's unbelievable the way the mother just shows up. On top of that, SPARK's motivational raps have about as much punk appeal as a SADD campaign, so it's hard to see why a disillusioned kid would eat it up in the first place.
Throw in Murray's need to throw in a misguided dance routine (I wonder if her real life experience with a cult included a dance sequence with her mom), and this reviewer is at a loss how it could win "Best Feature Film" and other notable awards in several festivals. As Alison Murray raises the narrative stakes we instinctively go for the ride, but it feels as if the person behind the wheel is would rather drive off a cliff than explore the neighborhood a little bit. And while that satiates our need for speed, in the end if feels like we didn't just miss a few signposts, but instead like we somehow got lost.
Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?