The ten-year-old Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, commonly known as T. S. Spivet, or just "T. S." (Kyle Catlett) is a child prodigy, although his teachers fail to recognise it and his parents and sister, well... The family lives far from high cultural territory, on a farm in Montana where his unnamed cowboy father obviously expects him to carry on the business, his mother Dr Clair (Helena Bonham Carter) is too interested in grasshoppers and insects to really concern herself with T. S., his sister Gracie (Niamh Wilson) is too interested in fashion, pop music and becoming famous and his brother Layton (Jakob Davies) accidentally shot himself.
But child prodigy T. S. certainly is: the Smithsonian Institute in Washington phones him to tell him he's won the Baird prize for his invention of a perpetual motion machine, and he's due to give a speech about it, but of course no one knows he's so young. The whole film is a visual feast, as you would expect from Jeunet, and we are still in the dream world he creates (meeting the tramp Dominique Pinon, for instance). From train hopping to hitching, T. S. makes it to the Smithsonian, gives a speech mainly about the death of his brother, is 'interviewed' by a mindless television presenter until his mother Dr Clair comes on the programme, then after that his father floors the presenter and they go home: they don't want their son to be manipulated by the media. but the best use of T. S.'s invention is to rock his mother's cradle for the new baby?
Larsen's book is experimental, and Jeunet tries to meet this experimentation by various diagrams in the film, various maps included in the visuals, etc. I wouldn't call this a fully accomplished movie as the ending is so unsatisfactory, the story just seems to fizzle out, but then professional criticisms of the novel mainly concern the rather inconclusive end.