I’m an avid movie fan and lover of all types of cinema, from horror to comedy to independent to drama, even throw the odd musical in there. I go to the cinema weekly and attempt to see anything and everything that catches my interest. Sure, there are months where I get slack on going, but for the most-part I follow what is out, and what it upcoming.
2012 was a good year for film, in my view, with some great blockbuster films (The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers) making the rounds, but for me, what I remember the most as a movie fan in 2012, was the handful of “indie” dramas that went under many a radar but provided me with a much-needed reminder to why I love film so much. Those films were Ruby Sparks, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Liberal Arts. Not underground films by any stretch, but films that not as many people went to see, yet stood out to me at the end of 2012 as my favourites of the year. 2012 became, for me, the year of independents.
Now, this year, so far anyway, has been another solid year as far as excellent releases go, and I’ve had a blast seeing the big budget flicks, and the lesser ones, in theatres in 2013. With massive pictures like Pacific Rim, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Elysium and Thor 2, it’s been an impressive year for fans of big hefty sci-fi and comic book movies. Then there have been quality animated films like Wreck it Ralph and MonstersUniversity, both of which were exceptional. We can’t forget the genuinely funny comedy releases, The World’s End, This is the End and The Heat, providing laughs for many of us. There have been some weird little gems too, that have divided audiences across the globe, like Only God Forgives and Stoker. We’ve seen a couple of very good horror remakes too, with Evil Dead and Maniac going under the “re-imagining” banner, and both, in my view, were a lot of fun. Through all this, and the vast amount of other great titles to come out so far in 2013, there is one thing that stands out to this writer this year, a genre that, in my opinion, was due a resurgence, that being the “coming of age” genre, made famous by true film classics like Stand by Me.
The coming of age tale is one that almost feels like we’ve seen it a million times, the simplicity of seeing a group of individuals find themselves and realise who they are, while bonding in some sort of almost-magical way, has been done many times, but it takes some truly great writing and performances for them to stand out from being just “run of the mill” films. There are three films that were released in 2013 that made me look at this year as the “coming of age” year of film. Here are those three films.
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories), Mud follows two young boys who happen upon a fugitive who is hiding out on a little island off the river where they live, and they form a bond with him, and attempt to help him elude those that are hunting him while also attempting to reunite him with his lost love.
Mud, himself, is played by Matthew McConaughey (Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe), and he does a great job in the role, bringing a warmth to the character whilst still keeping him mysterious enough to cause the viewer to wonder whether or not he is trustworthy. The two boys, Ellis and Neckbone (played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) are the spinal column of the film, and the coming-of-age tale that exists at its heart. Their performances are solid, and their interactions with Mud make for some truly joyful scenes. With further cast members like Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon and Michael Shannon, it is a fantastically realised story that feels truly unique yet wonderfully familiar at the same time.
The Way Way Back.
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash are proving to be a writing team to watch, having written The Descendants together a couple of years ago, and adding directing to their resume here, with The Way Way Back.
The first thing that drew me to this film, in all honesty, was Steve Carell (Dan in Real Life, The Office). I’m a big fan of Carell and when I saw that he was playing against type here, I was very interested to see how it all played out. Carell plays Trent, a questionable fellow who appears arrogant and blunt when we meet him. He is the boyfriend of Pam (Toni Collette) and the father of a snobby teen daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). Pam has a son named Duncan, played by Liam James, a quiet teenage boy who has yet to find himself, and is struggling with his puberty-years. Trent, who treats him in a condescending fashion, makes Duncan feel uneasy and this comes into play as the film progresses and the two begin to clash more and more. The four of them drive to Trent’s summer house near the beach for a vacation, and that is where the story begins and unfolds. We meet a cast of characters as we follow Duncan on his quest of self discovery, and it is nothing but enjoyable, fun, heart-warming and at times even sad, from then on. Duncan finds work at a water park and the scenes here in comparison to the scenes where Duncan is back at the house with his mother and her boyfriend, offer a vibrant clash of atmosphere and show how much Duncan is struggling with his home life.
I loved this movie, it was fresh, funny and beautifully written, not to mention performed brilliantly by the big and first-rate cast. If ever a movie made me smile in 2013, this was it.
The King’s Of Summer.
Written by Chris Galletta and directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, a team who I know nothing about, and have seen nothing by, the film is about three teenage friends who make a stand against their home-life and the restrictions and rules that come with it and they go to the woods to build a summer house and live off the land.
Sounds simple, and it is, but that’s where the beauty of the film is found. It is a story that, as a kid, we all wish we had done. We can sit and imagine how damn cool it would have been to have found a big space in the middle of a forest and spent the summer weeks of freedom, away from school, building a house and playing and laughing and being kids. The cast, as far as I’m concerned, as mostly unknown, with the exceptions being the excellent Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation) who plays the father of Joe (Nick Robinson) and Alison Brie (Community, Scream 4) who plays Joe’s sister. The cast, considering the lack of experience that is likely involved, do a great job here, but it’s the story and the setting that well and truly steal your heart.
So, there you have it. These three movies are the stand-outs of 2013, for me, so far. Are they flawless? No. Are there better movies to have come out this year? Yes, I don’t doubt it. But at the end of the day, these three films have stood out to me, beyond the big blockbusters, the gory horrors, the intense thrillers, the hilarious comedies and the stunning sci-fi.
Maybe next year we will see the re-emergence of another lost genre of film. We’ve seen exploitation come back, we’ve seen silent film return, and now the coming of age tale has found a place again. It makes me smile wondering what is next.