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AFF2012: 'Only the Young'

Documentary captures the urgency and boredom of the teenage years

By Marjorie Baumgarten, 8:00AM, Wed. Oct. 24, 2012

AFF2012: 'Only the Young'

Both the urgency and boredom of the teenage years are captured in this finely observed documentary by Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims. Although there have been a number of movies about skateboarding kids in recent years, Only the Young stands out from the pack.

These are not the alienated, disaffected subculture denizens of Larry Clark's Wassup Rockers or Stacy Peralta's many documentaries. The three teens who are the focus of Only the Young are not society's fringe dwellers; they haven't dropped out so much as they haven't yet found a way in.

Stuck in the scrubby wasteland of a Southern California area marked by its foreclosed homes, abandoned miniature golf courses, and unutilized viaducts, these teens still evidence the kind of passions and hopefulness that appear to have long since migrated from this place. They are the spiritual descendants of the teens in the (abysmally) planned community of New Granada in 1979's Over the Edge. The filmmakers' outstandingly poetic visuals lend the film its sense of specificity and universality. Unlike the shaky cam and jagged editing techniques common in today's youth-focused documentaries, Tippet and Mims' cinematography is locked-down and steady, creating a lyrical rather than disruptive worldview.

These teens are, in fact, evangelical Christians, though religion is rarely a topic of conversation. Ostensibly, the film tells the story of two boys who are best friends and the girl who is the on-again, off-again girlfriend of one of them. The one who is (or was) her boyfriend has never kissed her, while the other one has – a source of passing friction. They spend time in an abandoned house where the plan to host parties and build a skate ramp, but all they really do there is dream. The couple can never manage to get their romance going, and other boy is about to move with his family to another state following his imminent high school graduation. Nothing much happens, but it's everything in these youngsters' world. Only the Young ably shares that aching sense of turmoil in a teapot.


Only the Young screens Wednesday, Oct. 24, 8:30pm at the Rollins Theatre.

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