Only the Young

Only the Young

2013, NR, 72 min. Directed by Elizabeth Mims, Jason Tippet.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 22, 2013

You couldn’t pay me to be a teenager again, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes run a home movie of those days in my mind – days that were largely foot-bound and unwatched by adults, toeing through abandoned construction sites, and spending long hours just learning how to be in the world. Only the Young, a gorgeously shot documentary impression of that wandering age, has a tight focus and a geographical specificity (it’s set in Santa Clarita, Calif.), but in capturing the sensation of youth-on-the-verge, it feels exactly like those home movies in my mind – and, I suspect, in yours, too.

Just a few years removed from the age of their subjects, the twentysomething directorial team of Elizabeth Mims (an Austin native) and Jason Tippet follow three friends with a complicated dynamic: Garrison is the linchpin, sweet, sensitive, and catnip to girls; Kevin is his best friend, a competitive skateboarder whose inner life hints at a turmoil he doesn’t know how to articulate; and tough, plain-spoken Skye, Garrison’s not-quite girlfriend and a person of interest to Kevin, too. There is no voiceover narration and no interviewee asking leading questions, but all three teenagers confide to the camera; their unselfconscious and nonperformative ease suggests a lot of unseen work on the part of the filmmakers earning their subjects’ trust.

With the grandiloquence of youth, one of the boys assesses their place in Santa Clarita thusly: “Children are the gods of this city.” Oh, but what a crumbling empire they rule over, skeletoned with foreclosed homes, stagnating pools, and abandoned miniature golf courses – a bane perhaps to residents, but a visual boon for the filmmakers. Only the Young is at its most engrossing when simply observing the trio in these environs. Garrison and Kevin, both skateboarders, are kinetic on camera: Pool skating and barrel rolling and hurling themselves off of roofs, they are forever in motion, while not actually going anywhere, in an apt and unforced metaphor of the in-between years post-childhood and pre-adulthood.

Watchful and unbound by a neatly diagrammable narrative arc, Only the Young doesn’t try to say anything definitive. You might even wonder what’s so special about these three kids. Their concerns – first love, financial stress, questioning of faith, and an uncertainty over the future – while worthy, are not uncommon. And yet that is what is so very remarkable about the film: In a slim 72 minutes, it heart-tethers us to these teenagers, paying tribute to their unique and private selves while allowing the audience to see its own reflection in them.

For an interview with co-director Elizabeth Mims, see “Angst Is Their Co-Pilot,” February 22. Mims will also be present at this weekend’s screenings.

More Only the Young
You're Never Too Old to Get 'Young'
You're Never Too Old to Get 'Young'
The lowdown on this weekend's Q&As and afterparty for 'Only the Young'

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AFF2012: 'Only the Young'
AFF2012: 'Only the Young'
Documentary captures the urgency and boredom of the teenage years

Marjorie Baumgarten, Oct. 24, 2012

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Angst Is Their Co-Pilot
Angst Is Their Co-Pilot
'Only the Young' charts the agony and ecstasy of a certain age

Leah Churner, Feb. 22, 2013

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Only the Young, Elizabeth Mims, Jason Tippet

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