Movies You Should See Vol 4: Teens Gone Wild!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Teen Protagonist edition:

The first of this editions selection is a Dutch Film:

Ben X (2007) - The story of a teenager with autism and his immersion in his online gaming life where some of the  obstacles to his interpersonal challenges are removed and he meets a girl with whom he develops a connection.

In the other realm of Ben's life, he attends high school where he is excluded and rejected.

To watch the bullying of Ben by the other teenagers in his school is rough. However, it is very realistic - particularly with the advent of social media and the way experiences/bullying can now be shared with hundreds (thousands) of others in minutes.  Small embarrassments become amplified as they get shared above and beyond the immediate social circle.

The lead actor gives a brilliant and nuanced performance - completely believable as a Teen with autism - but more so as a Teen who is growing up and beyond the protective walls of his family and how he must face a world which has no obligation to his caretaking.

WE travel now to Argentina and the film

XXY (2007)

My friend Maija introduced me to this film, as she had seen it in Cannes. She also had the occasion to meet with the actress who played the lead character and reports that she was amazing.

This is the story of an intersexed child - one born with both genitalia. Her parents decide to raise the child without imposing the choice of gender that is often made by parents and doctors not long after birth. They move to the coast of Argentina and raise Alex without gender assignment....Until puberty when Alex begins to sort out who he/she is, both internally and externally AND both in gender and sexual orientation.

Of course, the relationships between the Parent and child, the hopes and dreams of Parents based on gender and sexual orientation of the child, and the Child's own view of their sexuality and place in the world are interwoven into the fabric of the story. The story is set into motion with a visit from old friends and their teen son.

The lead character Alex is 15, and the normal questions/explorations of sexuality are exacerbated by his/her unique physiology.

Most reviews use the words "touching" and "sensitive", and I don't disagree. However, it is the respect with which the issue of the sexuality of teens is handled  that is what stayed with me.  More than that, it reminded me of some of my process - Not with my identity around my gender, but the duality of embarrassment and completely natural and normal curiosity around sexuality.

From Britain, we have Boy A (2007)

So technically not a "foreign" film, it isn't one that I would hazard most of you have even seen advertised nor heard about.  VERY Loosely based on the true murder of James Bulger, this film follows a young man after his release from prison for murdering another child, when he was a child. He has served 14 years in prison and is now being released with a new identity, having gone into prison when he was 10.

This movies tosses so many issues at you that I felt it could be hard to sort them all out - What is justice? How do we treat children in society when they commit crimes at the level of adults? What is rehabilitation? Do criminals have any right to anonymity after they have served the prescribed sentence?

As a teacher/educator, I had added thought about the knowledge that the brain isn't developed in the same way as an adult until @ age 20, so there is no way that a child of the age of ten can truly understand the finality of their actions. As a Mom, I wept for all of them. The victim. The Boys and the adults who ignored them ( both in school and at home) until something terrible happened.

An added bonus was that this was the first major role for Andrew Garfield ( who most viewers will soon know as he is the next Spiderman) and his acting ability shines here. His performance is seminal in the success of this story as a whole.

In all, I was reminded of something I have said to other teachers - No child is born evil. No child is born bad. Their experiences at the hands of the adults in their lives is what shapes their perception of the world.  As such, it shapes their ability to relate to others as well as interpret what is "right" and "acceptable" behavior. When children are hurt, neglected and or abused by the adults meant to care for and protect them, they learn that behavior as Normal.

And that becomes Everyones problem.

The final film is Battle Royale (2000).

It would be too easy to say that if you have read the Hunger Games Trilogy then you know the basis of this movie....Although they do resemble each other. A dystopian society in which the Adults are Afraid of the Teens, and as such keep them in line by enforcing a Battle Royale using one selected Ninth Grade class of students.

They are put on an Island, each given a bag with a randomly assigned weapon and told they have Two days to kill their classmates. If more than one is left standing, they will all be killed so boycotting the game is not an option. At the end of the day, the names of the dead are read by loudspeaker as the adults keep tabs via cameras as to the progress of individual students.

Whereas Hunger Games used Romance between two lead characters, Battle Royale focuses more on friendship - as well as individuals breaking points in regards to the limits of that friendship.

I once read something that said this was a gory film - but I don't really think so...It is more of a cartoon Japanese gore, and no where near the sadistic torture of a movie like Audition ( which is a must see if you want to "know" the J-horror genre, as it was Miike's  first big Score in the movie world...but I couldn't hang on for the whole ending. I fast forwarded through the worst, I admit it.)

So, here they are for this edition - Hope you like them!

1 Baleful Regards:

Anonymous said...

Loved Boy A.

Everyone should check out "Dear Zachary: A Letter to a son about his father", a very poignant documentary that will stay with you for days on end.

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