A 2005 drama film written and directed by Alison Murray and starring Ellen Page
as Sherry, a young runaway fleeing from a dysfunctional family. She is seduced by Tiger
into joining a collective named S*P*A*R*K, standing for Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge. The leader Harry
becomes gradually more authoritative and Sherry's mother Rose
joins the group.
The film is a Road Movie
, shot in England, Germany, France and Portugal. The film had a very small opening, but Ellen Page's outbreak as an actress brought it back to the public eye. Some of points of interest include it's harsh realism, presentation of a rarely represented portion of society, and depiction of a complex grey/gray relationship between a mother and daughter. It's overexposed contrasted landscapes are also a beautiful love letter to Europe. Also, Page shaves her head
and finally plays Batgirl
This film provides examples of:
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Rose.
- Ambiguously Gay: Blade. His first reaction upon seeing Harry is nothing short of awe, and he goes from a delicate feminine demeanor in the beginning of the movie to outright camp mannerisms in the second half. Not to mention, the actor's only other credit was in Queer as Folk.
- Based on a True Story: Based on the experiences of Alison Murray when running away in Europe and joining a cult.
- Being Tortured Makes You Evil: After spending twenty four hours in the Pit, Blade has become one of Harry's most faithful and outspoken supporters.
- Bifauxnen: With her buzzcut and baggy clothes, Sherry looks very much like a prepubescent boy.
- Bittersweet Ending: Nancy dies down the Pit from her asthma attack, but this convinces Sherry, Axe and Dog to finally leave the cult.
- Broken Bird: Dog. Whether this is caused or merely exploited by Harry is hard to tell.
- Chewing the Scenery: Oh, Harry.
- Coming-of-Age Story: As said on the official website, "How Sherry loses her virginity, her illusions and her lip ring in one trippy road trip across Europe."
- Completely Different Title: The French title of the film is the relatively contemptible "Rebelle Adolescence"
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Harry only shaves half of Sherry's head, as only half the members of the cult have accepted her.
- Red(played by Jim Sturgess) is forced to eat six chillies for stealing wine.
- Crazy Homeless People: Averted. Most of the characters are homeless and apparently sane. The fact they're mostly off substances probably helps.
- Also, even though Mad Axe appears to play this trope straight, it's later subverted when he reveals it's all just a masquerade with the following quote:
- "The more fucked up people think you are, the more likely they are to leave you alone."
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Sherry.
- Disappeared Dad: Sherry's, but this is never addressed other than with the implications of a teen pregnancy, given her mother's relative closeness in age.
- The Ditz: Nancy, doubling as the Dumb Blonde.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Axe.
- The Dragon: Tiger is this to Harry.
- Easily Forgiven: Nancy and Sherry never hold grudges against each other for very long.
- The next scene where they interact after their first fight has them in casual friendly conversation.
- Sherry never calls Nancy out after she votes to put Sherry in the pit out of pure jealousy because she had sex with Harry.
- Despite Sherry being the only one who could have blown Nancy's cover, Nancy's anger ends when Sherry steps up for Axe. She just smiles proudly.
- Emo Teen: Sherry mopes a lot, especially where her mother is concerned. Concerning style, however, she switches from Goth to crust Punk, blending in with the rest of the group.
- Ex-Hooker With A Heart Of Gold: Nancy.
- Fade to White
- Fake Defector: Harry charges several people to break rules and speak negatively of the group, so he can test whether the others will denounce them or not. Sherry suspects Nancy is one of them. She isn't.
- It's also possible that the "tests" were just a ruse so he could ensure that anyone who spoke out would get reported.
- Forehead of Doom: Sherry, especially with her greasy hair hanging off the sides.
- Foreshadowing: Nancy losing her inhaler, twice.
- Dog: "I know I can't stop you guys, but I don't have to watch you."
- Hands-Off Parenting: Harry notes Rose's utter inefficiency when it comes to discipline.
- Headbutt of Love: Sherry and Axe in the pool.
- The Hedonist: Nancy thinks Harry is doing the right thing. She just doesn't think the right thing to do is fun.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: "Hey Manson. I've got something to get off my chest." It's puke.
- Axe: "Some guys will do that, you know. They act like they can take care of you, but when it comes down to it they wind up saving their own asses." And a few years later when Lokos and Page pair up again in The Tracey Fragments, guess what happens?
- Man Child: Most of the characters are this to an extent. Since this is a Coming of age story, they suffer a lot for their na´vetÚ.
- Mad Axe follows his whims and spends his time playing with Manson, a child. Like Sherry, he loses his element of innocence - in his case when Manson dies. After that, he becomes a far more quiet Only sane man.
- Nancy is a fun-loving thrill seeker, who left a comfortable home out of mere boredom. One shot in the van focuses on her sucking her thumb.
- Blade is seen cuddling a manikin in the van, very much like a child would cuddle a teddy bear. He has a very vulnerable demeanor in the first half of the movie.
- The Masochism Tango: The choreography seems to depict a filial version of this between Sherry and Rose.
- The Medic: Dog.
- Mood Whiplash: One minute, Harry is screaming at Sherry for having given away their location, the next, he smiles and kisses her on the forehead.
- Mr. Fanservice: Tiger.
- Na´ve Newcomer: Sherry is not only one of the newest members of SPARK, but she also does not have the same harsh background most of the others do.
- Official Couple: Sherry and Axe, according to Alison Murray.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Mad Axe, Dog, Tiger, and more. Sherry herself is known as Batgirl to the cult.
- Only Sane Man: Dog again, though Only Sober Woman may be more accurate.
- Surprisingly, Mad Axe becomes this after he is broken.
- Scenery Porn: The landscapes are filmed as to always appear as though the sun is scorching or setting, which gives it a desertic look adapted to the themes of abandon and wanderlust in the film.
- Shrinking Violet: Blade, at first.
- Straw Hypocrite: Harry condemns a conformist society while demanding complete obedience and unity from the cult members. Also, he has sex with the women of the cult while the rules he created himself forbid having sex at all. He then punishes them for breaking the rules and "making him break the rule" while he gets off scot-free.
- Sherry herself qualifies, as she considers herself an outsider and seeks a path of her own, yet conforms in order to be accepted into SPARK. Although, Alison Murray did describe the main appeal of SPARK as being an opportunity for peace and companionship without having to become part of a rotten society.
- Surprisingly Sudden Death: Manson. Axe playfully flips him by the legs into a dumpster, but some sort of debris slices through a major artery in Manson's neck on impact. He dies in just about a minute.
- Sycophantic Servant: Blade after his stay in the Pit.
- Teen Pregnancy: Harry thinks Rose must have had Sherry while very young. Rose neither confirms nor denies it, which in film making speak is just as good as confirmation.
- Totally Radical: The SPARK rap. A rap about the benefits of hard work and sobriety sung entirely by white and light-skinned people. It's just as dorky as you'd think.
- Traumatic Haircut: Seemingly averted. Most members of the group seem quite willing to have their hair shaved off, as it signifies full acceptance into SPARK.
- Unkempt Beauty: Most of the attractive cast members are, given the setting.
- Wham Episode: Manson's death is very shocking, no doubt helped by the idealistic tone in the first part of the movie.