‘Adolescence’ Theatrical Review
I was young once. I skipped class every so often in high school. I did a lot of drugs too, and on a few rare occasions it was actually because of peer pressure. I thought I was super edgy for having a big American flag upside down hanging on my wall. I even had long blonde hair with my dark disgusting brown roots showing. I wore KISS shirts and a had trouble talking to girls with weird biker dads. I had an inspiring English teacher that I took seriously even when I didn’t treat the rest of school the same. I listened to music loudly in my room and yelled at my parents. I went to metal shows and totally 100%, seriously no-foolin’, kissed pretty girls all the time. Surprisingly, all of that happens in Ashley Avis’ coming of age drama “Adolescence” as well. Even more surprising is that the main character who shares all those moments of life with me is also named Adam. And what’s perhaps the most surprising, is that this film isn’t actually about me. I’m not vain enough to think it was, but I am vain enough to have told at least one lie about my own adolescent self. Which one? I’ll never tell.
So I’m a liar. And I watched this movie. Now if that isn’t the perfect combination of reasons to convince you to listen to my opinions about this movie or movies in general, I don’t know what is!
Anyway, like I was saying, Adam (not me, different Adam), is an adolescent dealing with a tough home life and trying to find the point of it all. The storyline gets a bit obvious when that existential voyage is predictably contrasted with Adam’s little brother’s (again, not me, all my siblings are older) obsession with space and black holes – I get it, you’ve read Camus and have seen a few amazing episodes of BBC’s Horizons that made you question everything. Honestly, that’s probably more of a critique of this Adam (me), rather than that Adam’s (not me) brother. But really, that’s me just trying to blur the lines so you don’t figure out which one above –totally not the one about the very pretty and very real girls– was actually the lie. Maybe I’ll tell you at the end of the review, maybe I won’t.
Truthfully, this movie has a lot of heart, but it takes some sifting though. It wraps itself in a lot of the general and universal aspects of adolescence: alienation, angst, friendship, those little glow-in-the-dark stars attached to like 3 of your friends’ walls, pretty girls like the one’s I used to kiss, poetry, awkwardness, that actor from Braveheart that kills the guy for claiming prima nocte or whatever. But all of those aspects get a little lost in the gratuitous drug use and ominous flamboyance. I don’t think everyone has had those experiences, so I fear this film could be less of an empathetic trip through the typical throes of adolescence and more of an othering type experience á la Catherine Hardwick’s Thirteen. But maybe that’s the point? Maybe another exposé into the troubled lives of those of a different socio-economic class, all under the generic guise of a title like “Adolescence,” is the point?
Either way, the film paints the stark contrast between how we perceive adolescence and how we (or at least some of us) actually experience it. As a lie. A great big, ugly lie. A lie that you may have been telling for so long you forgot how true it was or wasn’t in the first place. Do we all do that? Is that the central part of adolescence? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe not to the extent that drugs play the most central role, but I think there is at least something there.
If you don’t do well with drug abuse and domestic violence I would definitely steer clear from this film. It is easily jarring and potentially triggering. But if a deep searching jaunt into some troubling concepts is up your alley, then give it a peek. I’m not going to tell you what I was lying about though. Clearly it wasn’t the line about the pretty girls. I understand why you would think that though.
Worth A Look
‘Adolescence’ is a dark coming-of-age drama starring India Eisley (I Am the Night, Underworld Awakening) and award winners Tommy Flanagan (Alien vs. Predator, Gladiator, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Elisabeth Rohm (American Hustle, Joy, Jane the Virgin).