Starring: Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer, Jennifer Tilly and Jeff Bridges
Revolver Entertainment
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 29 January 2007

Enter the magical world of Jeliza-Rose, an unusual child with an even more unusual story. Hers is a world where squirrels talk, where fireflies have names, and where the heads of dolls, long since separated from their bodies, are her closest friends. After the sudden death of her junkie mother, Jeliza embarks on a strange journey with her farther, a rock-and-roll musician well past his prime. But this journey offers little for Jeliza by way of consolation and as the vast loneliness of her new existence grows she falls deeper and deeper into the twisted world of fantasy that she has created in her mind...

Terry Gilliam has done it again. He's produced another original masterpiece that will alienate the majority of the knuckle scrapping audience that seem to venture out to the cinema these days. Most won't get it and slate Gilliam for going too far this time. The sweet irony is that what Gilliam is trying to do (and succeeds by the way) is to get away from this ridiculous notion, perpetuated by the tabloid press, that children are victims. Most good parents these days won't allow their children to play outside after dark or go anywhere on their own. The reason being that there are, we are led to believe, dangerous sexual predators on every street corner. Or, that faced with real horrors, like a family member or even a pet dying, children can not cope with the truth - these are things that should be hidden from them. It would seem that children are too fragile to learn the truth about the world we live in.

Jeliza-Rose doesn't have this luxury. Both her parents are selfish individuals that don't really think about protecting their daughter. Both are drug addicts and the early scenes of Jeliza preparing her father's heroine syringe have come in for heavy criticism. In reality they simply illustrate an innocent daughter doing a job to please her father. She has no more idea about what she is doing than if she were making her father some toast, or bringing him a beer from the fridge. In fact Gilliam mentions that those that complain about this scene wouldn't have any objections to it if Jeliza was preparing an insulin injection for her diabetic father. The truth is, the two would be very similar to her - she is simply helping her father to get his fix.

I have to say that I've experienced some very bad parenting first hand. I know of several lowlifes who treat their children in just this way. One teenage mother I had the misfortune of meeting used to give her three year old daughter a joint and get her to puff on it as a party trick - hilarious! Well, it was for the majority of other people that were there. They treated it like most good parents do when they point to a picture of an animal and their offspring make the noise that that animal does. The little girl thought it was all good fun because she was pleasing so many adults - surely in her young innocent mind she was doing something clever.

Tideland is a very innocent movie and shows the world through the eyes of an innocent child. And, if you approach this film by trying to remember what it was like to be a child, I think you'll take more from it than any other film you've ever seen. Blank out all thought of pedophiles, child killers and the like - things that as a nine year old boy I had no idea of - and you'll have a much better understanding of what Gilliam was trying to accomplish. That innocent quality is something that we so quickly forget. Children are not victims of everything around them! Remember we were children once too, and we survived... children tend to, hence them turning into adults and starting the cycle all over again.

Jeliza-Rose is a very resilient child. Both her parents die in this movie, and the way she deals with it is not some fake Hollywood way - in fact Gilliam has fun with this as Jeliza acts like a Hollywood actress from the golden days of the movie industry after cutting herself. A small cut to which she jokingly over reacts in a cinematic style. Yet, when it comes to reality, she reacts incredibly naturally. She is by far the strongest character in the whole film.

There are some controversial scenes with Dickens, the retarded 19 year old boy from the house up the road. But they are only controversial when you take into consideration the medias' ongoing pedophile and child killer shock stories that seem to perpetuate the myth that for each child there is an army of warped and twisted men who are waiting for their chance to strike. There is that fear in us that Dickens still has the body of a man and can quite easily harm Jeliza. The irony here is that it is Jeliza that is in control of her relationship with Dickens - she wants to know what a kiss is like, she wants him to be her boyfriend. Neither her nor Dickens really know what that all means, in the same way as children we didn't understand.

The four doll heads in the movie are also worth mentioning. Mystique, Sateen Lips, Glitter Gal, and Baby Blonde all represent aspects of Jeliza-Rose's personality. And, the movie starts to go deeper into Jeliza's madness as her lips stop moving but the dolls continue talking.

As far as the actors are concerned. Where do you start? All put in strong performances, but Jodelle Ferland (Jeliza) and Brendan Fletcher (Dickens) really are unique. And Jeff Bridges really puts in one of his best ever performances - which is incredible when you consider he plays a corpse for 75% of his screen time.

Extras include an audio commentary with Gilliam and writer Tony Grisoni; Getting Gilliam: The Making of Tideland (43 mins behind the scenes look at the movie where the featurette maker tries to discover more about his boyhood idol); Interview With Terry Gilliam (14:30 min); Interview With Producer Jeremy Thomas (9:30 min interview that looks at Thomas's work with Gilliam and other directors. It also had a misspelt caption: "Indpendent Film" which is a bit embarrassing, but made me chuckle); Q&A With Mitch Cullin & Terry Gilliam (9:30 min); Deleted Scenes (6 min featurette with commentary with Gilliam. Includes an interesting scene that shows how Jeliza-Rose originally found the dolls heads); Behind the Scenes Featurette (5 mins); Green Screen (3 mins featurette that looks at how the underwater and rabbit hole sequences were shot) a not very well hidden Easter Egg; Theatrical Trailer; and trailers for other productions.

A lot of people will really not get this movie the way it was intended, which is their loss, and fuels the debate on whether Gilliam is a misunderstood genius or just too intelligent for his own good. You can bet that the majority of people who dislike it are actually projecting things that they don't like about themselves on to the screen, or are nervous about aspects of themselves. An example is the beautiful image of Jeliza as she puts on make-up in the mirror. She looks a lot older and, as Gilliam points out, a lot of men may feel uncomfortable at how attractive they find her - she is a very pretty girl and does look older than 18 in these scenes. This doesn't make them pedophiles. Far from it. But it may worry them - she is only nine for goodness sake.

But it plays with how we have been conditioned to think. I was out shopping with my girlfriend recently and saw a lovely, cute little girl who had her hair in bunches. My heart melted. I turned to my girlfriend and said: "Ahh! Isn't she cute." But I didn't say it too loud. It's not the sort of think that is expected from a thirty-odd year old man - no matter how innocent it's meant. It's the sort of comment that gets you beaten up - which is insane. And that is what Gilliam is trying to re-educate his audience with - a time when life was so much more innocent. When you could leave your kids with the neighbours, or let them sit on Santa's knee. Why should the majority feel guarded the whole time because of a very small minority?

At the end of the day this is one of the most innocent and beautiful of movies to have been made in recent years. The fact that it comes from the mind of a 60+ year old man with daughters of his own is proof, if any were needed, that inside us all that small child is still very much alive.

Darren Rea

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