This beautiful film with sinister undertones around a mysterious pregnancy is a stunning directorial debut for Rebecca Thomas.
Julia Garner is Rachel, a fifteen year old bought up in a conservative Mormon community. She fall pregnant and believes it’s because of a forbidden cassette tape that she listened to. When her parents arrange a hasty marriage for her, she decides to run away and find the singer on the tape, believing him to be the father of her child.
Garner is perfect as the wide-eyed ‘prairie-girl’, who’s heart-breaking naivety endears her to the most unlikely of friends; a band of skater boys. Her overwhelming belief that she has been blessed in the same way that way the Virgin Mary was, betrays a very worrying innocence. You almost come to believe that she’s telling the truth and that this is a miracle, she certainly can’t believe that she’s hiding something.
Rory Culkin plays Clyde, a runaway who takes Rachel under his wing, recognising something in her that he wants to protect. There’s a beautiful moment at the end of the film with the two of them where you get the sense that she’s coming to understand what’s happened to her. He’s just standing by her.
Las Vegas is portrayed by someone who obviously knows its backstreets intimately and as a result its is a completely different to the Las Vegas we know from screen. The isolation of Utah and the community are highlighted so poignantly, that when Rachel heads back there is an acute sense of foreboding. A simple and sparse soundtrack forces this sense as mush as the crushing silences.
This polished debut is a modern fairytale and ends as well as a story as disturbing as this can. Rebecca Thomas was bought up by a very different Mormon community to the one on screen, but the film isn’t really about Mormonisn. It’s about something that can happen to a vulnerable person in any community. Rachel is lucky to find people willing to support her when her own family is so quick to turn their back on her.