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Only the Young
The place is Canyon Country, a mostly abandoned desert town in southern California, and our guides through this untamed wilderness are a trio of Christian punk rock teenagers.
“Children are the gods of this city,” one of the teens, Garrison, tells us.
“Yeah, and there’s still nothing to do here,” Kevin adds.
Their female friend, Skye, is a pretty alterna-teen, orphaned by irresponsible parents and raised by her grandfather. She’s strong, sullen and witty, and so, typical of their age, the boys in her life take her for granted.
Only the Young offers little by way of context or chronology. Instead, we measure the passing of time by the kids’ changing hairstyles. Garrison has shaggy brown hair, then glasses, then magenta bangs. Later in the film, when Skye rocks a half-mullet and finds herself adored by more than one suitor, she has to conclude: “It’s the hair."
Directors Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet have given us an incredibly sweet, intimate portrait of these kids. At just over an hour, the film takes the time to linger on dripping faucets, birds of prey and plenty of skateboarding footage.
The boys wear Minor Threat and Black Flag T-shirts, which make their Christianity at once baffling and touching. More than anything, it’s sweet just how much they love each other. Garrison and Skye have an ongoing thing, but it’s the friendship between Garrison and Kevin that takes precedence. Kevin has a dark side; Garrison is shy and unsure of what he wants to say. To watch Garrison confront Kevin about his self-destructive behavior, or Skye about her negative attitude, is to witness an act of bravery.
Of course, it’s not always so serious. A lot of times they just act like kids, like when the two boys dress up like Gandalf for Halloween. They speak to each other with a lot of dry, knowing humor. There are places with dialogue so punchy the film seems cut together like an indie comedy.
Watching Only the Young, you can’t help but feel that you’re in the hands of competent storytellers. These particular kids are interesting, sure, but a lot of the pleasure of the film comes in how they’re framed. We should expect great things from Mims and Tippet in the future.
Only the Young screens at the Wilma Fri., Feb. 22, at 8:30 PM.