Some films are called classic masterpieces for a reason. And this is one of such films.
Watching this film is emotionally exhausting. And not because the plot reminded me of my youthful times or life as a gang member. I was never a gang member if anyone cares to ask. The most powerful notion was that it felt like watching myself being 17 again and re-living my first fascination and closeness with another person my age. Of course we had our issues with ‘the folks’ as do all the three youngsters in this film. Perhaps not that extreme and perhaps we did not end up meeting for the first time at the juvenile retention, but still – the emotional phenomenon of discovering who we really are and who we want to be seems to universally transcribe throughout decades.
James Dean, although he is 24 and plays a 17-year old (and looks a contemporary 32-year old), carries through the magic and power of how it is to be on the verge of becoming one’s true self. He walks, moves, looks like my 17-year old counterparts back in my day. The red jacket he’s wearing (apparently the costume decision was made once it turned out the film will be shot in colour) works like a magnet and forces us to closely watch him and rarely do our eyes turn away. This is a film that needs to be watched with 100% attention as there are so many details crucial to the story, shown rather than described. Shown rather than told.
Also, Jim Stark reminded me of someone and I only realised it late into the film – my first boyfriend back at high school, even though he does not look like James Dean at all. That’s what I’m talking about. The energy, the emotions, the question marks, the will to no longer be in this place and the realisation that when you’re 17, you really are alone with your issues and surprisingly it is your first boyfriend/girlfriend who will become your ally. Not your parents anymore.
There were other films made later touching upon the same notes of coming of age but so far I haven’t seen a more successful one.
It takes a lot of guts to be true to one’s self and stand up to one’s principles seems to be the key message of this short and sweet – only 67 minutes long – story. The film was co-written by the actors and the writer-director Brandon Harris.
It usually is neck-breaking to focus the plot around three characters. And yet it seems to be working fine. It is not your typical buddy movie for one reason – the story follows each guy separately. Their secrets get unveiled gradually – thickening the plot and building the back story.
The three friends rejoin at their fourth friend’s funeral. One of them – Marco – no longer lives in town – he decided to take up farming and work on self sustaining sources. That is the one I fell head over heels in love with straight from the first scene. Nathan Ramos definitely has got that something making me want to watch out for him in his future projects. His persona is a mixture of mystery, looks and certain sensuality not often encountered in the cinema these days.
The other two – Aaron and Willie – make an archetypical couple of two extremely different blokes – one is a big confident pal, the other is shy, slightly closeted and it is not obvious for a while why. With one friend out of town and the other gone, they form an almost grotesque sort of friendship of two polar opposites.
Without revealing too much, it has to be said that the four friends must have created quite a gang. I like how we learn about the fourth absent member through the interactions between the three left. I like how each of the friends has a story to tell, how different each of them is. They fight and it can be only imagined this is the natural way of expressing their feelings, emotions, and it must have been the same when the four of them were together.
It’s fresh, it’s beautifully shot, I like the grading, the coulours. It feels real.
Looking forward to the next project!
In the Catching Up Section
Starring Paul Giamatti (who bagged the Golden Globe for this role) as well as Dustin Hoffmann. A long tale of a life of an unhappy artist-writer and his wives. Over the years he lives in Rome, New York and finally in the countryside somewhere in New Jersey.
Another warm approach at presenting a tragic character who does not mature throughout his whole life, however is still capable of unconditional love towards his third wife.
Full of politically incorrect jokes at the expense of the Jewish community with Dustin Hoffman openly expressing his supposed discrimination, ignorant of the fact that it could have little to do with his ethnicity and much more with his attitude.
A good piece of cinema, again, a little too long to my taste. Watch it if you can.