Director Gregg Araki is known for his films dealing with the youth culture and their multitude of stripped back, honest sexualities and this independent production based on Laura Kasischke’s novel by the same name only continues along this pattern.
Set between 1988 and 1991, the story deals with Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley), a 17-year-old teenager whose slightly psychotic, undersexed, housewife of a mother, Eve (Eva Green) soon vanishes seemingly without a trace just around the time of Kat’s own sexual awakening. Through flashbacks we see how Kat meets her new neighbour Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) at a teenage rave, soon developing a sexual relationship with him, starting with the loss of her virginity. It is important to note here that flashbacks play a vital role in this film (so if they annoy you I’d beware) and when mixed with art-house inspired dream sequences, which are briefly explored by Kat’s psychologist, gives an overarching adolescent Freudian feel this film. Concepts of repression and family relations create psychoanalytical themes that are slightly comical and conventional yet work well for the mainstream target audience of teenagers and twenty-somethings. And if there are any Law and Order: Special Victims Unit fans out there, Christopher Meloni’s performance as Kat’s father, Brock Connors, will make for an interestingly different yet respectfully impressive performance.
In addition, the genre of this film is marketed as a drama thriller yet the mystery of the mother’s disappearance takes an almost irrelevant backseat to the sexual developments of Kat, which if anything are only increased after the absence of her mother. The characters in the film, even if stereotypical, are majoritively well acted and contain a quirky cameo from Twin Peaks’ Sheryl Lee. Nevertheless, the 80s enthused soundtrack and colourful cinematography, including a quirky costume department, gives this film a beautiful visual style with an ear-pleasing listen (if you like the 80s that is).
Overall, although an honest and sometimes emotionally blasé depiction of losing a family member this film has great potential for art-house, American indie film lovers who have a liking for the 80s. I will add finally though that this film does have a twist which I did not see coming, however as you will see it maybe isn’t the kind you’re used to in conventional thrillers, yet works very well within this film’s emotionally ambiguous feel.
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