Film Review: Sins of Our Youth

Four middle-class teens accidentally kill a younger boy and subsequently do all the wrong things in this cautionary drama about gun violence.
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High-school-age brothers Tyler and David Workman (Lucas Till and Joel Courtney) and their best friends Scott (Mitchel Musso) and Carlo (Bridger Zadina) form a tight-knit crew of ordinary, middle-class white guys. They're varying degrees of good-looking and not conspicuous troublemakers. They like girls and pot and drinking, mostly beer and mostly on the sly. Carlo is a little less well-off than the rest—his single, alcoholic mom (Ally Sheedy) is a dealer at a casino—and Scott and David's parents appear to be the most well-off financially; their home includes a downstairs rec room that the guys use as a clubhouse with Mom and Dad often away on business. Scott affects to be all about the thug life, but his toughness goes no farther than the bling, the swagger and the music.

Amid the trappings of Christmas—from store décor to the life-size front-yard crèche—the guys are itching to finish their classes and have dumb fun, which is how they wind up in the Workman backyard, taking potshots at a bunch of oversized plastic reindeer—Tyler and David's dad has guns...a lot of guns, from automatic weapons to side arms. The ’rents are away for the weekend and what's a locked gun closet to a quartet of tipsy, testosterone-poisoned young dudes?

It's all fun until they discover the bullet-riddled body of Bradley (Matt Hawk), a neighbor kid who bicycled over to return a lost cellphone and came around the back of the house when the teens failed to hear him knocking at the front door. From that point forward it's one bad judgment call after another: They don't call the police and try to figure out how they can get out of the situation with their bright futures intact.

It's hard not to be reminded here of Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?, which also deals with the aftermath of a youngster finding a parent's responsibly stored firearm and shooting someone and was released earlier in 2016. But the two movies have little in common except the underlying message that guns and kids, especially boys somewhere between childhood and maturity, are a potentially tragic combination, even when parents take the right precautions.

But while Is That a Gun... takes a comic approach (the film's only casualty is winged in the buttocks), Sins of Our Youth is a tragedy. Its strength lies in the fact that while Tyler, David, Scott and Carlo are all privileged, reckless and self-centered—again, in varying degrees—they're not Billionaire Boys Club sociopaths. They're reckless but have consciences, and their post-murder scheming is so childish it would be funny if there weren't a real dead child under a tarp in the rec room.

Like most message-driven films, Sins of Our Youth is likely to be seen largely by adult audiences who agree with its message, while younger teenagers who could benefit from its effective evocation of the way a single choice can have devastating and irreversible consequences might be deterred by the R rating.

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