The everlasting quirky voice of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie (2001) and The City of Lost Children (1995) again creates a character that feels little connection with anyone and, to find his or her purpose, takes on a project of grand personal importance. Instead of chimneys and rooftops in Paris, we are taken to a small ranch in Montana. It is here we are introduced to the young and prodigious T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) and his rancher family. A wildly intelligent scientist and inventor at only 10 years old, T.S. is nerdy, reserved, and diligent – just like his mother Dr. Clair (Helena Bonham Carter). Meanwhile his twin brother, Layon (Jakob Davies), is his father’s (Callum Keith Rennie) son – cowboy to the core.
After creating a blueprint that the Smithsonian believes is an invention capturing perpetual motion, T.S. Spivet is invited to Washington D.C. to accept a prestigious award. The largest barrier for T.S. is that he not only has school on Monday, but he no longer feels compelled to tell his indifferent parents about his success. As everyone is dealing with a family tragedy caused by the trigger of the children’s gun, the parents and the children have all become reclusive toward their feelings and each other. The father continues his ranch work, while his mother becomes obsessed with her insect collection. Not wanting to disturb his parents, T.S. lies about his age, his parents being alive, accepts the award and boards a train to the coast.
Along the way, T.S. reflects on his past, the decisions he has made, and the affect his actions have caused on those around him. As T.S. pieces together his memories over the past year from the ranch, he meets several kooky characters that show him different perspectives on how to approach life. Before long, T.S. is accepting his award, being taken advantage of by cable networks, and pimped out by the Smithsonian. Just as the viewer questions where his parents are, his mother surfaces out of nowhere and swoops him back to the ranch. With no real conclusion of family rekindling or understanding of what exactly took place, we are left wondering about T.S. Spivet and his family on the ranch.
Jeunet continues to include his disapproving views towards America, guns, and the media. Additionally, he portrays certain traits possessed by his characters, such as collecting of odd objects, as in previous films. He has clearly become vested in the recurring story structure, which is becoming looser from film to film. The graphics and character’s quarks were enough to keep me mostly entertained. Also, the cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful – during every frame. But, like in his last film, Micmacs (2009), I felt that had he focused more on the character development in context of the plot instead of the character idiosyncrasies, the end result would have been more rewarding.