The film (based on the novel of the same name) opens with its setting in a small fictitious American town of Stokum (with fake car license plates to go with it) where apparently lives suck. The film is actually Canadian passing off as an indie American film. Lives probably suck more for a teenager where success in life looks dim and worse of all, if the teenager does nothing to improve him or herself but smoke pot, skateboard, play video games and do lousy at sports. These are typical teenage losers who have as much to blame themselves as society. So who is this teenage prophet, where does he come from and what can he do to improve the situation?
Anthem tells the story of Luke (Cameron Monaghan) a teenager who foresees the death of his new best friend Stan (Alex MacNicoll), the most popular and buffed guy in school. When this premonition becomes reality, Luke must deal with the trials and tribulations of being dubbed “The Prophet of Death” and being titled a freak by the entire town. The town really begins to suck for Luke now. It doesn’t help that he’s fallen in love with Faith (Peyton List) who just happens to be Stan’s girl or that he’s on the outs with his childhood best friend Fang (Grayson Gabriel) or that the premonitions just keep coming.
The film takes a bit of time to get it footing. A little patience is required. The first 15 minutes or so shows here annoying small town teenagers just slacking around, annoying the adults and the audience included. It is only when it is realized that Luke has these fainting spells that allows him to see who is abut to die next that the film becomes more interesting. In fact, this is a clever and original premise.
Monaghan looks and acts like Kevin of the hit British skit of Kevin and Perry, but a more serious version. But he is a good actor and presence to be reckoned with. Juliette Lewis absolutely steals the show as Luke’s super cool mother who thinks the world of her supposedly loser son.
Messages on life are dished out as funny as they arrive. Luke is given solid advice by a midget truck driver. “I spend my entire life diving this truck looking out this window driving along these lanes. I cannot swerve like a madman when a deer or tree falls into my lane. Or I will be certifiable. One cannot control was comes into our lane. You can’t! You hear me?”
The film’s subplot of Luke’s weird acting gay best friend, Fang (Grayson Gabriel) shows Luke’s worth and the strength of their friendship which anchors the film. Brilliantly, this subplot also proves the truck driver’s message wrong.
The film won accolades at the Vancouver International Film Festival. An interesting enough film that just reaches its potential, ANTHEM OF A TEENAGE PROPHET has sufficient nuance and innovation to keep audience interest piqued.
ANTHEM is an earnest film on teen’s angst and survival in a world that seems both strange and cruel. It is funny, occasionally brilliant, observant and entertaining.