Flashback Friday: Permanent Record (1988)

Permanent Record 1988

Image: IMDB.com

There is something to be said about movies made in the 80s. There’s a certain level of simplicity; an innocence and charm that you just don’t get in today’s releases. Which takes me to Permanent Record.

With an endless list of 80s movies to choose from, I couldn’t go past this little Keanu gem. I watched it for the first time recently and was left with all kind of feels. It’s a sweet movie that deals with friendship, family, pressures of high school, suicide and the aftermath of losing your best friend. Topics that will always be relevant to someone somewhere in the world.

Unless you’re a robot or some kind of sociopath missing a heart. No judgement if you are. You just might want to watch a different movie.

What surprised me most about Permanent Record was just how much time was invested in the character of David Sinclair (Alan Boyce) and his friendship with Chris Townsend (Keanu Reeves). Reading the blurb before watching the movie I just assumed that since the plot was centered around his suicide (Sssh, it’s not a spoiler if it’s in the blurb!) his appearance would be brief. It wasn’t. Which was great but also terrible because you get attached to him. Which I guess is the point. Not only is he liked by everyone he is also; in a band with his best friend, a straight A student, a talented composer in the making, a caring son and big brother, and has just been accepted into a Uni that is apparently very selective with its intakes. While he takes things into his stride and seems to be coping it isn’t long before little cracks start to appear, showing us that, no matter what form it takes, pressure can get to us all.

As likable as David is, there’s no denying that after he leaves, Chris really shines and steals the movie. Keanu’s performance was surprisingly moving and actually caught me off guard at one point (I may have shed a tear). His guilt, confusion and sense of loss and helplessness felt believable and raw. Again, another universal mix of emotions we can relate to.

I felt the only downside to Permanent Record was the portrayal of the female characters. David’s mum was fine, I didn’t have any issues with her. It was the teenage girls that felt underwritten and rather flaky. I’m not sure if it was just an 80s thing or a lack of screen time that lead to their below average dialogue and strained presence onscreen. Either way, I felt like they were the weakest links in an otherwise enjoyable 80s flick. Nothing against the actresses, they just weren’t given much to work with.

I don’t usually go with the five star system when writing reviews but if I did I would give this movie 3.5 stars out of 5. One star for heart, one star for Keanu’s performance and a third star for the way it portrayed the ripple effect of suicide. The half star goes to the overall strength of the script, losing half a star based on the teenage girls and a scene or two which were a little lacking or alternatively tried too hard.

While Permanent Record is not a genius cinematic masterpiece to be forever ingrained in my memory, it’s still an enjoyable movie that manages to stir some emotion and leave a lingering impression. A movie I will gladly pick up again once some time has passed. After all, distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?

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