Every now and then, a film slips by without a great deal of fanfare and I end up catching it on DVD and wondering just why the hell more wasn’t made of how bloody good it is. This is one of those, a brilliant drama about a teenage care home and the young adults running it that manages to be completely gripping using those old-fashioned devices “story” and “character”. It was critically very well-received, but nevertheless its absence from any major awards is a complete mystery to me, especially so for its lead, American actress and singer Brie Larson.

It’s a film that feels utterly real and lived-in, which is understandable given its genesis – writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton himself worked in a group home for teenagers for two years, and originally made a short film based on his experiences as part of his university thesis, before expanding it into this feature. It’s a short, punchy film that seems to make a point of touching on every base it can – it uses comedy without being stupid, and plunges into drama without ever being melodramatic. It’s a shining example of just how damn good American independent film can be. And ultimately, it’s a completely fair and honest portrayal of troubled youth and how we all carry that into our adulthood. Track it down and watch it.

Classic American indie - funny, clever, beautifully shot9
Sensitivity when handling the subject matter of emotionally troubled youth8
Devastatingly dramatic without being sentimental9
Social commentary subtext8
Brie Larson's astonishing lead performance10
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
9Overall Score

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