Man in the Moon (1991)
Every once in a while, a film comes along with so much raw talent and youthful emotion that it can knock you off your seat and stir up a well of sensations. Many will claim that the James Dean films were such, and in European cinema we have seen examples such as Truffaut's Les Quatre cents coups, Jan Sverak's Kolya, Bo Widerberg's Lust och fägring stor and Lukas Moodyson's Fucking Åmål, to name a few. Remarkably, two such special films were made in the USA in 1991. One was Mary Agnes Donoghue's Paradise, the other was this unique piece from Robert Mulligan.
Mulligan was known for getting sincere, intriguing performances from his actors. Here, he has the privilege of working with a young and marvellously instinctive Reese Witherspoon who sets the film alight with her wonderfully expressive appearance and natural grace. Hers is one of the best debut performances ever, and this functions as the foundation for this honest and evocative, but thoroughly level-headed film. The writing, by Jenny Wingfield, reveals a lot of insight about adolescence in general and growing up in the 1950s USA in particular. This is reflected in the performances too, such as Sam Waterston's strict but loving father and Gail Strickland's diligent single mother.
Man in the Moon is an inherently romantic film, but it doesn't dwell or become bumptious. It is poetic, simple and delicate, appreciating the bittersweet nature of life the way most of us know it. If you can resist this film, chances are that you're more than a little bit callous.