Tag Archives: teenagers

Me and Earl and the dying girl

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; Main Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia CookeNick OffermanConnie BrittonJon Bernthal;

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Greg (Mann) has successfully navigated the treacherous waters of high school until his senior year by being a chameleon. He cleverly adapted to the social mores of each clique thus remaining virtually invisible and unscathed. His best and only friend since childhood, Earl (Cyler), is laid-back and unfazed by the high school life; they share a passion for movies, in particular classics, instilled by Greg’s father (Offerman), an eccentric professor of sociology. Their favorite pastime is to remake them or “swede” them (you should watch Be Kind Rewind, to understand this) with, of course, poor man’s methods and interesting results. Greg’s quiet life is forever changed when his mother (Britton) guilt-trips him into befriending Rachel (Cooke), a girl who attends his school and has been recently diagnosed with leukemia.  What follows is a very authentic and captivating tale of friendship (no soppy, tear-jerker love story a la The Fault In Our Stars), that is, in turns, charming, funny, awkward and raw. Greg is forced out of his protective shell by hanging out with Rachel at school, learning to be part of its micro-society and experiencing the (most of the time) traumatic consequences of being noticed. Rachel, on the other hand, becomes part of Greg and Earl’s private world and enjoys watching their masterpieces while she has to endure cancer treatments.  This film is a well-written, perfectly-casted coming-of-age story with a nice dose of sarcasm and humour that balances its darker and more gut-ranching moments. I haven’t seen a film about teenagers so insightful and charming in a while. The three young leads give very convincing performance and carry the film on their shoulders from start to finish. Among the adult cast special kudos should go to Nick Offerman as Greg’s oddball father, a joy to watch! Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s second time in the director’s chair is a success and well-worth your time. Beguiling —8/10

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Short Term 12

Director: Destin Cretton, Main Cast: Brie LarsonJohn Gallagher Jr.Rami MalekLakeith Lee StanfieldAlex CallowayKevin HernandezKaitlyn Dever;

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Intriguing and insightful story about a seldom visited topic: foster care facilities for at-risk kids (in the US). The audience discovers this world through Grace’s eyes (Larson) and her co-workers. She is a young counselor who has been working for a few years at one of these facilities, she is capable, understanding and very dedicated to her job. Her boyfriend Mason (Gallagher) also works at the same center with equal dedication and kindness, and he does his best both at work and home, being caring and thoughtful with Grace, who seems to be going through a tough time. The audience gets acquainted with the center’s inhabitants along with a new counselor named Nate (Malek), Grace and Mason introduce some of the kids to him: there’s Marcus (Stanfield), who’s about to turn 18 and, therefore, will be leaving the facility soon, Sammy (Calloway), who’s going through a deep psychological trauma, and Luis (Hernandez), who’s easygoing but enjoys bullying Marcus. A new arrival, Jayden (Dever), is clearly quite traumatised and Grace takes particular care of her.  She, however, ends up relating and deeply empathising (maybe too much) with Jayden, due to the particular conjuncture of events in her personal life. Grace will go to extremes to protect Jayden and face her inner demons in the process. Destin Cretton, in this debut feature, skillfully directs a talented young cast without falling into the trap of looks-before-substance, that sometimes dooms a indie film.The hand-held camera work and close-ups of the characters make for good storytelling, enhanced by a lovely photography. The story arc of Grace is very compelling thanks to Larson’s intense, convincing acting, helped along by strong performances of the rest of the cast, Gallagher and Dever especially. I particularly enjoyed the nice touch of Mason sharing a story with Nate at the beginning and at the end of the movie as encouragement and hope for the future. This film turns out to be a little gem, everything an indie movie should be and more.Uplifting and unconventional 8/10

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Aya de Yopougon

Directors: Marguerite AbouetClément Oubrerie, Main Cast (voices): Aïssa MaïgaTella KpomahouTatiana Rojo;

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Set in Abidja (Ivory Coast), this animated film chronicles the life of Aya and her friends, Bintou and Adjoua. They grew up and live, along with their families and friends, in Yopougon, a rather poor area of the biggest city of the country. Like many other teenager girls, they have dreams about their future, want to have fun but also have to deal with their parents’ and society’s expectations. Marguerite Abouet (who is also the writer of the graphic novel) clearly knows well the subject and gives us a rich, insightful view of a seldom seen location and a rarely described period (the late 1970s, during president Houphouët-Boigny’s tenure), using the personal stories of ordinary but colourful characters. Aya is sensible, responsible and independent, quite unlike her two best friends, who are more frivolous and fun-loving. What is quite perplexing about this story is that, although Aya is the protagonist, she ends up being the witness and narrator of the exploits and escapades of the ones around her, being friends, family members or mere acquaintances. The directors seems to have much more fun regaling us with tales of foolishness, small-mindedness and ambitiousness. It is indeed entertaining and offers a biting social satire using the ample spectrum of human qualities. However it is not totally convincing, the well-known secret for a good movie is: don’t tell, show; unfortunately it is not always the case here. Furthermore I would have liked to know more about Aya and her dream of becoming a doctor in such a society, stifled by patriarchy and lacking opportunities but maybe it was a topic too tricky to explore. The animation per se is charming but nothing extraordinary, a good support to a nice story. Peculiar —6.5/10

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The Selfish Giant

Director: Clio Barnard, Main Cast: Conner ChapmanShaun ThomasSean Gilder

This is a story about friendship between two boys, Arbor and Shifty, from the margins of the working class of the Midlands.  Arbor is outgoing and full of energy but he’s also prone to violent outbursts for which he takes medications. He lives with his mom and his junkie older brother. Shifty is more subdue and reserved, he’s kind, soft-hearted and tries to be responsible. He is the eldest of a large brood and his parents can barely scrap a living. Arbor and Shifty are always out and about, both to amuse themselves and to get a penny. After being kicked out of school for fighting, they enter the shady world of metal scrappers and its borderline or outright illegal activities. They befriend Kitten, the owner of the local scrap yard, and rent his cart and horse to wander around town and collect metal. As they earn some money, they see how they could earn more and Arbor gets bolder and reckless in his capers to obtain quality copper. Shifty acts like the voice of reason and he’s more concerned about the well-being of people and horses. The two boys have a fall out and they reconcile only for tragedy to strike. This is a heartfelt and engaging film made by a skilled and keen observer of mankind. The two young actors are just brilliant and the absence of a music score makes each scene more relatable and powerful. Clio Barnard is a director to watch, her style reminds me of  Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) and  Cate Shortland (Somersault).  Compelling —8/10

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Director: Mamoru Hosoda, Main Cast (voices): Emily HirstAndrew FrancisAlex Zahara

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Makoto is a teenage girl going about her normal life: school, playing baseball with her best friends Chiaki and Kosuke, wondering about her future and dealing with minor set-backs. One day something weird happens to her (guess where… in the science lab… of course!) and Makoto discovers that she can leapt back in time and re-live events in a different way.  She starts using her newfound powers for rather silly things: avoiding embarrassing conversations with Chiaki, acing a math test, fixing Kosuke up with a cute but shy girl and other mundane incidents. Makoto is pretty happy with herself until something terrible happens and she finds out more about the origin of her powers. It is a nice story with a good pace and with all-round characters. The animation is quite good although not perfect, some minor details of bodies and movements are just wrong. Anyway it is a very pleasant film and a good choice if you need some anime fix (and have already seen everything from Miyazaki and Kon). —7/10

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