Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Only the Young

An engaging, stereotype-defying portrait of American teendom.

Dec 4, 2012

-By Sheri Linden


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1368698-Only_Young_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

The coming of age of the American adolescent, a perennial subject of fiction and nonfiction films, adds a fresh chapter with Only the Young, the debut feature by CalArts grads Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims. Their fast-moving documentary zeros in on three ultra-likeable Southern California high-schoolers, following them through a succession of hairstyles and turning points.

Tightly constructed while maintaining the loose intimacy of just hanging out, the sympathetic portrait of these Christian skate punks rejects easy labels. The economically distressed suburban setting makes for a fascinating tableau, and informs the note of anxiety that courses through the kids’ self-deprecating exchanges. Winner of the Audience Award for the “Young Americans” section of AFI Fest, the movie is destined to connect with audiences when it unspools theatrically, via Oscilloscope, beginning with a Dec. 7 New York release.

Best friends Garrison Saenz and Kevin Conway, 16-year-old bantering skateboarders, at first come across as a sweeter version of Beavis and Butthead, but their smarts and earnestness are quickly apparent. They approach the potential teenage wasteland of Canyon Country—a section of the sprawling “boomburb” Santa Clarita, in the northwestern stretches of Los Angeles County—with a cross between mild jadedness and youthful resilience, not to mention a devotion to scripture. The boys, who participate in a Baptist church’s “Ignition Skate Ministry,” are never preachy or ostentatious about their faith.

The edgier Kevin’s involvement in a skateboarding competition in Phoenix, the original focus of the doc, occupies a small portion of the brief running time, ceding center stage to interpersonal and family matters. Romantic jealousies and confusion arise when the shy Garrison and sharp, self-possessed Skye Elmore, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, each start dating other people yet remain close friends. His new girlfriend is a “hip-hop-dancing liberal,” according to Skye, who is herself an all-American, Jesus-loving paradox, wearing multiple nose rings and placing a “Brady Bunch” photo on display in her room. More telling, though, is Garrison’s response after older members of the church step in to advise against the relationship with a nonbeliever.

The filmmakers’ considerable access pays off in lighthearted moments (Kevin and Garrison as dueling Gandalfs for Halloween) as well as straight-to-camera confessionals. Skye, who was raised by her grandparents, faces especially daunting personal challenges with remarkable clarity and strength, although her toughness reaches its limits when foreclosure threatens her family’s home.

Tippet’s nimble camerawork is alert to Canyon Country’s vacant and forsaken patches, its dirty unused swimming pools and running creeks. In an abandoned house overgrown with weeds, Kevin and Garrison are part-time squatters, dreaming of turning the property into a half-pipe park for skating and concerts. Exploring a derelict miniature golf course with Skye, Garrison notes wryly—in a way that encapsulates the film’s blend of darkness and cheer—that what was once the upscale venue’s waterfall is now just a fall.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Only the Young

An engaging, stereotype-defying portrait of American teendom.

Dec 4, 2012

-By Sheri Linden


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1368698-Only_Young_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

The coming of age of the American adolescent, a perennial subject of fiction and nonfiction films, adds a fresh chapter with Only the Young, the debut feature by CalArts grads Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims. Their fast-moving documentary zeros in on three ultra-likeable Southern California high-schoolers, following them through a succession of hairstyles and turning points.

Tightly constructed while maintaining the loose intimacy of just hanging out, the sympathetic portrait of these Christian skate punks rejects easy labels. The economically distressed suburban setting makes for a fascinating tableau, and informs the note of anxiety that courses through the kids’ self-deprecating exchanges. Winner of the Audience Award for the “Young Americans” section of AFI Fest, the movie is destined to connect with audiences when it unspools theatrically, via Oscilloscope, beginning with a Dec. 7 New York release.

Best friends Garrison Saenz and Kevin Conway, 16-year-old bantering skateboarders, at first come across as a sweeter version of Beavis and Butthead, but their smarts and earnestness are quickly apparent. They approach the potential teenage wasteland of Canyon Country—a section of the sprawling “boomburb” Santa Clarita, in the northwestern stretches of Los Angeles County—with a cross between mild jadedness and youthful resilience, not to mention a devotion to scripture. The boys, who participate in a Baptist church’s “Ignition Skate Ministry,” are never preachy or ostentatious about their faith.

The edgier Kevin’s involvement in a skateboarding competition in Phoenix, the original focus of the doc, occupies a small portion of the brief running time, ceding center stage to interpersonal and family matters. Romantic jealousies and confusion arise when the shy Garrison and sharp, self-possessed Skye Elmore, his on-again, off-again girlfriend, each start dating other people yet remain close friends. His new girlfriend is a “hip-hop-dancing liberal,” according to Skye, who is herself an all-American, Jesus-loving paradox, wearing multiple nose rings and placing a “Brady Bunch” photo on display in her room. More telling, though, is Garrison’s response after older members of the church step in to advise against the relationship with a nonbeliever.

The filmmakers’ considerable access pays off in lighthearted moments (Kevin and Garrison as dueling Gandalfs for Halloween) as well as straight-to-camera confessionals. Skye, who was raised by her grandparents, faces especially daunting personal challenges with remarkable clarity and strength, although her toughness reaches its limits when foreclosure threatens her family’s home.

Tippet’s nimble camerawork is alert to Canyon Country’s vacant and forsaken patches, its dirty unused swimming pools and running creeks. In an abandoned house overgrown with weeds, Kevin and Garrison are part-time squatters, dreaming of turning the property into a half-pipe park for skating and concerts. Exploring a derelict miniature golf course with Skye, Garrison notes wryly—in a way that encapsulates the film’s blend of darkness and cheer—that what was once the upscale venue’s waterfall is now just a fall.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Amira & Sam
Film Review: Amira & Sam

A potentially intriguing interracial love story between an ex-soldier and Middle Eastern lass feels much too forced and contrived. More »

The Devils Violinist
Film Review: The Devil's Violinist

The latest classical-music legend to have his life trashed–again—by a cheaply sensationalistic movie, this famed fiddler deserved way better. More »

Backstreet Boys
Film Review: Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of

The ’90s boy band dusts itself off for a self-congratulatory, and not especially revelatory, career retrospective on the occasion of their 20th anniversary tour. More »

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts 2015
Film Review: The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Documentary

The long shadow and in-your-face reality of mortality shadows nearly all the entries in this year’s powerful, draining Oscar-nominated documentary short films program. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Project Almanac
Film Review: Project Almanac

Saying this underbaked Chronicle knockoff is meant for teenagers is an insult to the intelligence of teenagers everywhere. More »

The Wedding Ringer
Film Review: The Wedding Ringer

Intermittently amusing bro-comedy trifle that confirms Kevin Hart's talent, though not his taste in material. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here