Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Compelling Coming-of-Age Tale

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Compelling Coming-of-Age Tale

Article excerpt

HAPPINESS is something you have to look after, be vigilant about," tenderly advises a mother in Gavin Wiesen's impressive debut feature.

The writer-director has certainly been vigilant about ensuring our happiness with this touching coming-of-age story, crafting detailed characters and dialogue that we believe in from the opening frame.

Admittedly, the plot is predictable and many big screen teenagers have stumbled and fallen just like the laconic hero of Wiesen's imagination, who describes himself as "the Teflon slacker".

However, what the film lacks in originality, it makes up for in sincerity and bittersweet charm.

Fatalistic high school student George Zinavoy (Freddie Highmore) doesn't see any point in completing class assignments and the socially awkward loner is on the verge of failing to graduate.

"I have a real problem with motivating but I'll try," he tells Principal Martinson (Blair Underwood), not really believing those words himself.

When his mother and step-father discover he is on academic probation, George convinces them as well that there is no need to worry. He just needs to apply himself. By chance, he crosses paths with Sally (Emma Roberts) and he takes the blame and the punishment for her transgression during school hours.

In return, she introduces George to a world of parties and colour he never knew existed. He also finds a mentor for his artistic endeavours in painter Dustin (Michael Angarano) - a school alumnus, who is immediately taken with Sally.

The film is a charming and moving portrait of growing pains, distinguished by a compelling lead performance from Highmore as a boy on the cusp of manhood, who describes himself as "kind of a misanthrope... not by choice, kind of a fact".

The actor doesn't strike one false note getting beneath the skin of his disenfranchised and painfully lonely misfit. …

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