The melodic title of Robin Hays’ Anthem of a Teenage Prophet suggests, at the very least, a kind of experimental approach to tragedy and trauma. Instead, this adaptation of Joanne Proulx’s award-winning novel Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet is surprisingly familiar; replete with the traditional rebellious drug-fueled angst we’ve come to expect from cinematic representations of teenage life in the suburbs.
Anthem of a Teenage Prophet, though, is hardly a poor effort. It effectively balances its muted magical realist elements with verisimilar representations of grief and trauma. The film stars Cameron Monaghan as Luke, a long-haired teenager who, while stoned, accurately predicts his friend’s death the following day. Several other dark premonitions occur, and Luke quickly becomes the focus of the local media. The film follows Luke as he struggles with the death of his friend, while also trying to prevent other tragedies from occurring.
Monaghan, whose success on TV’s Shameless and Gotham has not yet translated into the film market (Mall), carries the film suitably and complements the film’s weightiness as Luke grapples with tragedies while also coming to terms with the usual assortment of teenage woes.
Ultimately, the film’s lack of true innovation stifles an otherwise finely crafted and emotionally realistic picture. The full extent of Luke’s unusual premonitions is left understandably vague, but the film’s unwillingness to expand on its magical realist elements leaves a rather empty product. The central protagonist also suffers from some bare characterization. Aside from his trauma, much is left ambiguous, particularly his fraught relationship with his father.
Anthem of a Teenage Prophet shows promise, but it’s ultimately hindered by a disinterest in its most compelling features.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile