If a Culkin is in a movie, I will watch it regardless of whether it is Macaulay, Kieran, or Rory.

Electrick Children displays a wonderful performance from Rory Culkin, who may very well be the best actor of the bunch. But Julia Garner certainly steals the show as a young teenager named Rachel from a fundamentalist Mormon family in Utah. There’s nothing unusual about Rachel. She’s just a curious little girl naïve to the reality that surrounds her since she’s been sheltered all her life.

From the outset, the audience is treated to a creepy look inside devout Mormon life as Rachel is being interrogated on her 15th birthday so they can tell whether or not she’s still buying their line of bullshit. It all starts with a tape recorder. Rachel is fascinated by such a foreign tool.

She is a simpleton in the purest sense as a result of her upbringing.

Two things have enthralled Rachel: that tape recorder and a story her mother tells about a red mustang. Electrick Children is the story of how those two things intertwine. A lot of areas in this movie are lacking, but Electrick Children benefits from its simplicity and derives its believability from the amazing acting of Julia Garner and Rory Culkin. In limited screen time, Cynthia Watros (memorable for her role as the girlfriend Erin on Titus) does a surprising job portraying the beaten down role of Rachel’s mother, who has basically given up any hope of having a life of her own.

The central premise of Electrick Children is childish and delusional: Rachel is so mesmerized by the tape recorder that she sneaks downstairs while everyone is sleeping in order to listen to a cassette. What Rachel hears is awful, ungood music that captivates her because it is the first such music she’s ever heard. A few months later, Rachel is pregnant. It’s a Christmas miracle! But it is not so miraculous despite Rachel’s insistence that she did not sin and that this is an immaculate conception.

It is the age-old tale of impregnation by tape recorder. Pushed to the brink because no one believes her—they think it was her step-brother Mr. Will who did the deed and was then banished from the community—Rachel steals the car and drives away down a long road to freedom and the dirty, dirty sin of Las Vegas.


Unbeknownst to Rachel, Mr. Will (dressed like a real life Bilbo Baggins) was sleeping in the bed of the truck that she stole so the unlikely pair head to Sin City for some not quite family bonding. While in Las Vegas, Rachel starts awkwardly asking anyone who plays an instrument if they are the father of her unborn child. It’s like an uncomfortable hidden camera prank, but it shows the effects of a lifetime of suppression.

On this meandering and almost always awkward journey, Rachel comes in contact with Clyde (played by Rory Culkin) and her life changes forever. At times, I grew weary of the scenes on the screen and bored for much of the second act, but I could never truly disconnect because of Rory Culkin. Something genuine comes across in Culkin’s character of Clyde, who is a perennial fuck-up with a good heart.

Rory Culkin

Even if you have trouble getting into Electrick Children, avoid the urge turn it off and at least stick with it 30 minutes into the scant 86-minute runtime. Although the story is understated and the movie lacks a distinct style (unsurprising since it is the directorial debut of Rebecca Thomas), Electrick Children will reward you with a sweet, simple movie built around two very solid performances. Whether the ending is good or not is debatable, but it eventually pays off on the ultimate question of the father’s identity.

Electrick Children is solid yet unspectacular. This movie is currently streaming on Netflix, and it is worthy of watching as long as you have some patience and can withstand largely uneventful stretches.

3 out of 5 stars

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