Tiny, but heartfelt indie pic from writer/director Matthew Gordon who’s yet to parlay Film-Fest success into either a theatrical release or another gig. Depressing, no? Yet, the pic rewards attention, working much the same terrain as Jeff Nichols’ MUD/’12, sans tricked out suspense tropes. A coming-of-age summertime tale, it follows a hardscrabble Mississippi teen just out of Middle-School, who filches from lockers & stumbles into fights. Less a ‘bad kid’ than a directionless one, he’s effectively orphaned, living with a fading G’ma, a mentally damaged half-brother and the occasional threat of a wised-up, no-good older brother he’d give anything to look up to. The surprises & epiphanies are small, but they carry a lot of weight, closing out a childhood that’s already gone largely missing. The acting from the non-pro cast shows more concentration than variety, and can feel a bit flat. But the film doesn’t overstay its welcome, with characters spinning in unexpected ways, showing shards of decency even when lesser angels & worse instincts reappear. Take back that ‘heartfelt’ description; ‘heartbreaking’ is more like it.
DOUBLE-BILL: Gordon’s obviously seen Truffaut’s coming-of-age classic THE 400 BLOWS/’59. (KES/'69; OF MICE AND MEN/'39; HUD/'63, too.)