HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – Only the Young Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto)

Only the Young

Directed by Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet

Tickets are still available for May 6, 4:30pm: CLICK HERE

The filmmakers behind Only The Young made their movie just to document the journey of two teenage Californian boys, Garrison and Kevin, to a skateboarding competition. But eventually they found a new mission statement in portraying a version of adolescent life that closely relates to their experience that isn’t shown in fictional media. They want to show these children’s friendships and romantic relationships during their last year of so in high school.


There is little to no chance of convincing me that stories about adolescent life haven’t been exhausted already. Hormones and a taste of adventure! Being bored of a small town yet wanting to contribute to its stagnant gene pool anyway! Being uncertain about life and the future, yet hanging out in abandoned desert houses instead of getting part time jobs! Best friends having rifts because of who kissed who! A close-knit inner circle who doesn’t talk to people outside their race!

Only The Young is shot in clear digital cinema, capturing the warm glow hitting the sand in the desert mountains around these adolescents, the boys’ gaunt faces and minimal dialogue reminiscent of Beavis and Butthead, the girls and their ill-fitting jeans. It’s especially hilarious how there are sequences where the boys skate and do tricks on rooftops, the camera going slow-motion while an old song is playing to make the scene more thoughtful and bucolic than necessary. This makes Sofia Coppola’s lazy summer afternoon aesthetic look more masterful and elegant.

Those scenes, regular or slow motion, give the movie a casual tone and that’s mostly how these adolescents view life and each other. Casual treatment of a forty year-old guy who skates for Jesus influencing their impressionable minds. Casual name-dropping of Jesus and using Him as a password in such a way that no one can date this or that person unless they also love Jesus. Casual anti-atheism. Casual isolation of Garrison’s new girlfriend Kristen because she questions the Church’s patriarchy then calling her ‘not pretty,’ a ‘bad influence’ and a ‘shitty girlfriend’.

There are moments when I sympathize with the person hurling most of the insults towards Kristen – Skye. She talks about being a honky-tonk, being under threat of losing the house where she and her grandfather live. She’s the movie’s core and problematic soul without calling attention to herself, her scenes almost making me thank that I’m not watching some reality show with unnecessary heightened emotions. She’s baffled by her on-and-off boyfriend’s indifference or overt optimism towards her precarious situation. She and Kyle have connections in Tennessee, their families separately contemplating moving here, and she also has the option of moving in with Garrison. She talks about these choices in a straightforward manner, thinking about doing either if she has to.

The three friends discuss the possibility of missing each other without crying about their separations. Like these life choices they’re sure that their company, just like adolescence itself is fleeting. And at least, despite my problems with their lifestyle and prejudices, these subjects and the movie they’re in show fear of adulthood in a minimal, subtle matter.

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