Adolescence is a Compelling Drama
by Jason Bates
While Adolescence feels familiar with its teen-falls-in-with-the-wrong-crowd story, it also manages to add its own nuance. Director Ashley Avis does an excellent job crafting a gritty vision of sunny California.
Mickey Rivers (who also has story and screenplay credits) leads as Adam, a teen on the verge of high school graduation whose home life is broken. His mother, Jennette (Elisabeth Röhm), swims against depression and infidelity while his short-fused father, Dave (Michael Milford), cannot keep his head above water.
Adam is introverted and processes his life through writing and art. He constantly scribbles in his sketch pad and his English teacher praises him as one of the strongest writers in the class. With the help of his best friend Keith (Romeo Miller), Adam lets loose — blowing off family and school — and finds himself on Venice Beach talking to Alice (India Eisley). The play-by-play here isn’t important. They party. They drink and do drugs. They sleep together. Adam falls in love...with Alice...with heroin.
The fall from grace is predictable, and that’s okay because the deeper story here is about need. Every character is searching to fulfill a need, and most are doing it to their own detriment. Adam needs a family and to feel loved. Alice needs to feed her habit. Jennette needs to feel wanted. Dave needs to feel appreciated.
Adolescence is strongest when it focuses on its characters’ troubled family dynamics. The family scenes are heart-wrenching to watch and are the main driving force for Adam’s story.
Adam’s descent happens quickly with Alice pulling him into her world. He shuns his friends. He steals from his family. His salvation is painful and hard-earned. And it includes a sweet little nod to Trainspotting as Shepherd (Tommy Flanagan) sings “Perfect Day” to Adam during his recovery. Shepherd, who we meet as a grizzled rocker, has taken on Alice as a daughter of sorts — attempting to fulfill his need to reconcile his guilt about his real daughter. But Shep cannot save her. He can only try to minimize the damage to herself and others.
Adolescence, while not particularly unique, is a compelling drama that feels honest and avoids glorifying addiction as an aesthetic.
Adolescence is distributed by TriCoast Entertainment and North of Two. It is now available on VOD.