By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Hundreds of movies every year try to capture the experience of being a teen. This can prove difficult when forty and fifty-somethings are writing scripts for a bunch of actors in their mid-twenties to play high schoolers.
Yeah, Tatum’s 32 and Hill’s like 50, but Dave Franco’s 27, so I don’t know what he’s talking shit for
Only the Young is ostensibly about a year in the life of some kids from a skateboarding church youth group, but what it’s really about is being that most difficult and sublime of ages, straight from the mouths of the babes themselves.
You’re unlikely to see a more beautifully shot documentary all year, which is all the more impressive as Only the Young isn’t capturing pristine wildernesses or colorful, exotic traditions, but rather the boring old suburban wasteland of Southern California. And yet, directors Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet never fail to find the beauty lurking within these mundane environments.
They also are able to evoke the beauty of being a teenager better than most novelists could ever dream of. These are just normal kids with relatively normal lives, normal anxieties, normal loves, joys, and tribulations. The fact that there’s nothing overtly extraordinary about these kids is what makes the film universally relatable, and such an achievement.
The central relationship is between two childhood friends, Garrison and Kevin, but for my money its Garrison’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Skye who’s the most interesting of the bunch. She’s had a truly sad childhood, but is growing up to be a tough, sharp young woman in the face of it all.
Although her choice of haircuts can stand a bit of improvement
However, as things go from bad to worse, her optimistic veneer begins to crack a bit and it’s absolutely devastating.
Checking in at an hour and ten minutes, this film never overstays its welcome, but it’s obvious that the filmmakers were stretching a bit for footage even then. Some conversations don’t really go anywhere, primarily because Kevin and to a lesser extent Garrison are glaringly conscious of the camera. Over the course of the year this improves, though.
Only the Young takes a slice of real life and gives it a romantic veneer with some of the best cinematography you’ll see this year.
Take a Drink: for every shot of urban desolation
Take a Drink: for every anecdote that doesn’t really go anywhere
Do a Shot: whenever Kevin breaks a board