The more I thought about seeing Tarnation, the more my brain started splitting the words up to become Tar Nation, a film about a country complete tarmacadamed. In such a fictional land our hero Jonathon would be a very poor lawnmower salesman, until the day he harnesses the power of the hover mowers to create a new form of public transport.

Some nights I don’t sleep all that well.

The real Tarnation is no less bizarre in form if not content (though even that is a bit shakey). This is the closest I have ever seen to an art film in a cinema. I tend to use the phrase art film in a disparaging way, partially because a lot of rubbish comes under that subtext and I don’t like watching film in a gallery. That there is a narrative in Jonathan Couette’s film is about the only thing that marks it from the standard art film and a lot of them have narratives merely by virtue of having a beginning and an end). What makes it interesting is that it is completely old footage, home videos, camcorder trash and photo’s digitally manipulated, played with to tell the story of his and his mothers life. Probably only fifty percent of it is actual video footage – the rest is cut-up treated photography, which often looks like a bad 1980’s indie music video. Which gels nicely with the bad emo life the lead has led.

Does it work? Yes, but not due to any of the visuals. In the end, a tragic story of a woman who was driven mad by electroshock therapy that she did not need, and her son brought up by the grandparents who did that to her almost gets comic in its bleakness. This story would compel if the visuals were just pixelated photos spinning in and out of the screen. Which is just as well, because sometimes they are.