- 06 Sep 17
We know the staple youth movies – but students have turned to a new wave of cult classics in recent years.
It’s back to school season, and while we know you’ve all seen The Breakfast Club and Fast Times At Ridgemont High, some modern coming-of-age classics have been released over the past decade that you should also watch out for. Consider watching them research for life, so settle in front of the TV with some popcorn and do your homework.
In Handsome Devil, Irish director John Butler uses an all-boys school to dismantle what we think about labels and identity. Fionn O’Shea plays Ned, a student left ostracised by his rugby-mad peers who believe him to be gay – a fact that’s refreshingly never confirmed nor denied. When he’s assigned a new roommate, rugby star Conor (Nicholas Galtzine), Ned is understandably wary. But as the two slowly become friends, it’s clear that both have had limiting identities inflicted upon them by other people, and neither one seems to fit. Butler has endless faith in and respect for teenagers’ capacity for wit, empathy and intelligence, and Ned and Conor’s friendship is a joy to behold. It’s a modern coming-of-age classic.
Possessing a keen eye for class divides, social mores and isolated individuals, director Lenny Abrahamson turns his eye to Celtic Tiger cubs in What Richard Did. Loosely based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day In Blackrock, it’s not only a quietly devastating exploration of guilt and entitlement, but a telling tale of our time. Jack Reynor plays the eponymous Richard, a charismatic young rugby player who swans through parties, romantic interactions and parental lunches in leafy Dublin suburbs with similar aplomb. As Richard’s life is explored, the exquisitely naturalistic, keenly observed script not only portrays complex and well-rounded characters, but gives a biting insight into the mindset of his generation. However, the dark side of this entitlement and groupthink is revealed when tragedy strikes and omertà sets in.
In Edge Of Seventeen, Hailee Steinfeld gives a winning performance as Nadine, who just never feels like she fits. When her best friend and effortlessly cool big brother start dating, she feels even more isolated – and in that isolation, she taps into the pain of losing her father a few years previously. Nadine, even through her struggles, is whipsmart and funny, and her banter-filled relationship with her wisecracking English teacher (Woody Harrelson) plays like Good Will Hunting meets Mean Girls. There’s angst and embarrassment and plenty of laughs, as Nadine stumbles through school’s social politics. But writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig taps into something deeper too; the line between teenage self-criticism and depression, and how tricky it is for young people to express the difference – and be believed.
Casting Ellar Coltrane when he was seven years old, Richard Linklater filmed Boyhood for 39 days over 12 years, capturing the seemingly banal tiny moments that form a young man’s life. Linklater’s portrayal of the arc between childhood and adulthood has little plot and no melodramatic propulsion, instead focusing on the moments and memories that form relationships and identities: looking at your first porn magazine; being forced to get your hair cut; seeing your mother crying on the floor and not understanding why.
Subtly starting with low camera shots that rise as Mason grows, the director perfectly captures this subjective but maturing perspective, while technology and music act as the cultural signifiers of his vast timeline. As Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play Mason’s estranged parents, the evolving relationship between parent and child is alternately heart-warming and heartrending. As Arquette declares “this is the worst day of my life” as Mason leaves for college, you are left in no doubt how much she means it. One to watch with your parents before starting college. Say thank you.