Rebecca Thomas’s debut feature Electrick Children is a crackling, captivating film that’s equal parts allegory and acid trip. At the center of the story is Rachel (Julia Garner), an inquisitive and rebellious teenager living in the mid-nineties. Julia has been raised by a fundamentalist Mormon family, living on a compound in Utah. On the occasion of her fifteenth birthday, Rachel is asked by her father and church leader (Billy Zane) to begin recording religious testimonies using an old-school cassette tape player. Rachel is fascinated by the tape deck, and becomes further intrigued when she happens upon a forbidden rock tape stowed away in her family’s basement.
Three months later, after what she describes as a “miraculous experience”, it’s discovered that Rachel is pregnant. Though she is convinced that her child has been immaculately conceived, Rachel’s family believes that her brother Mr. Will (Liam Aiken) is to blame for the pregnancy. After a marriage is hastily arranged for Rachel, she flees (with Mr. Will unwittingly in tow) to Las Vegas, in search of her child’s father—the man who sang on her miraculous tape. The siblings fall in with a group of runaways, and a troubled young man named Clyde (Rory Culkin) becomes committed to helping Rachel find her mystery singer.
The trio of young actors that anchor Electrick Children deliver mesmerizing, unsentimental performances. With most of the film’s plot points depending upon happenstance, it’s difficult to locate the narrative in the real world. But having one foot in realism and the other in fairytale lends Electrick Children a dreamy, mythical air that jives very well with its unlikely landscape and fable-like story.
Photo via ElectrickChildren.com