The spirit of Harold and Maude is alive and well in this black comedy about isolated American teenager Mike Tyson (Alex Ozerov).

Possessing a morbid fascination with death, when Mike finds out he has a life-threatening tumour he promptly refuses treatment. On a mission to further his end, Mike does everything he can to keep it a secret.

An opening sequence is amongst the film’s best, at least for the first half managing the tense subject matter with adroit humour and skill. Coconut Hero lives and dies on Ozerov’s performance, with all of the action and every scene revolving around Mike. Alternately bullish, inexorable and moribundly misanthropic, Ozerov imbues each of Mike’s scenes with a soft-felt humour, conveying as much with a blank stare as with the cynical ideations he launches at a local Priest. Enter Miranda (Bea Santos), the film’s deus ex machina who’s there simply and only as a foil or sounding board for Mike’s contemplations.

Coconut Hero feels like multiple films playing out at once, while anyone who has seen Harold and Maude will recognise this effort’s stylistic and thematic similarities. Whereas the 70s classic excelled for formulating and depicting two fascinating characters in their own right, Miranda, while not unengaging, is a nakedly contrived plot device, unfortunately serving little purpose in and of herself. Starting out as darkly comic, in its latter stages the film takes on a much more sentimental mentality as it shifts to a redemption narrative, at the same time abandoning the significantly interesting characters of Mike’s mother (Krista Bridges) and estranged father (Sebastian Schipper) and their shared dynamics to the great detriment of the film.

One scene shared between Mike and Miranda by a lake is very touching for being one of the sparse moments in Coconut Hero that is not overstated, itself building to one of the film’s most engaging and surprising sequences, of which there are a few. The slow-moving and expressive imagery interspersed throughout Coconut Hero recommends it almost above all else as Mike slowly prepares for his own death in this intriguing, but not too well thought out picture.

Coconut Hero is screening at the Sydney Film Festival on Saturday 11 June and Sunday 18 June, for tickets head to the Festival website

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