Review by James Lindorf
First-time feature director Robin Lea Hays partnered with Sepia Films to adapt the award-winning novel, Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet, by Joanne Proulx into the teen drama, Anthem of a Teenage Prophet. Cameron Monaghan (Gotham, Shameless) stars as Luke, who forecasts the death of his best friend by a distracted driver. When this premonition becomes a reality, Luke must deal with the trials and tribulations of being labeled a freak by the entire town. Monaghan is joined by Peyton List (Jessie) as his best friend’s girlfriend, Faith, and Academy Award-nominee Juliette Lewis (August: Osage County) as his emotionally supportive mother, Mary. Newcomer Grayson Gabriel also turns in a quality performance as Fang, Luke’s former best friend, and current misfit. Anthem of a Teenage Prophet will release in theaters and on-demand January 11th with the DVD release following on February 5th.
Luke spends his free time skateboarding, drawing, and joking with his friend, Stan (Alex MacNicoll), the handsome high school jock who’s dating the beautiful Faith. After Stan’s death, Luke is unable to cope with his grief and the unwanted attention brought on by his premonition, resorting to alcohol and drug abuse. Luke’s repression of his emotions, both internally and externally, leads to a lowkey performance from Monaghan, much different from his larger than life role as the villain on Gotham. While understated, Monaghan’s turn as the troubled protagonist is undeniably touching.
With the initial supernatural event being quickly followed a second vision the film seemed poised to be an intriguing supernatural thriller. Unfortunately, the mystical elements disappear for nearly half of the movie before making a comeback in the climax. Between visions, Hays seems to rely heavily on a thoughtful collection of 90s music, film school artistic shots, and the cast to provide the atmosphere.
The subtlety of Monaghan’s despair, paired with the warmth and appealing nature of List’s performance is almost enough to help the film reach the levels that it desires. However, the unwillingness to commit to the supernatural aspects of the film, and a subplot that comes from left field, take a potential genre standout and renders it an also-ran.