Suicide. Psychotic breaks. Molestation. Gay-bashing. These are the plot points that first-time writer/director Stephen Chbosky is working with, adapting his bestselling, much-loved Young Adult novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Ripe dramatic material, but Chbosky surrounds his hurting characters with the cinematic equivalent of a hug circle – which is sweet, but rather antithetical to tension-building. In this sensitive but still-water bildungsroman set in the early Nineties, high school freshman Charlie (Lerman) falls in with an older, artsy crowd that nurtures his evolution from loner to fledgling writer, among whom are damaged beauty Sam (Harry Potter’s Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (We Need to Talk About Kevin’s mesmerizing Miller), who is mercilessly bullied for being gay. In its best stretches, the film captures the electrifying sensation an outcast feels when he finds his people. Truly, every shy, thoughtful kid deserves the same kind of support system that rallies around Charlie when his depression overwhelms him. But even as Charlie’s grip on sanity starts to go, Chboksy’s tone of gentle optimism never wavers.