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Rival (2020)

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Some people argue that Coming-of-Age narratives are alike across all movies.

Nothing can be further than the truth, and Marcus Lenz‘s 2020 Coming-of-Age drama, Rival, is a perfect example of that.

Featuring a story that focuses entirely on its nine-year-old protagonist, Roman (Yelizar Nazarenko), the film explores themes such as jealousy, rivalry, illegal immigration, and growing up in an odd and dreary atmosphere.

 

The Story

A scene from Rival (2020)
A scene from Rival

After the death of his grandmother, with whom he had been living, Roman goes to live with his mother in Germany. His mother had been caring for an older woman who has just died. The surviving husband of the deceased, an elderly German man named Gert Schwarz, has fallen in love with Roman’s mother. Still, while the man has opened his home to the son of the woman who works for him, when Roman senses there is something more than an employer-employee relationship going on, the young boy feels betrayed. He begins seeing Gert as a rival competing for the attention of his mother.

Cinematography

Cinematographically, Rival is a masterpiece. The skills of Cinematographer Frank Amann in controlling the lighting in the scenes, the subtle changes of focus and the depth of field — effectively emphasizes the characters and their emotional state.

Musical Score

The film’s musical score and overall sound design are executed capably. There is no voice-over commentary, and the music that accompanies some of the scenes effectively cues the viewer to an emotion. Uplifting classical music is utilized to boost the euphoric atmosphere in some of the scenes, while in others it highlights the characters’ internal turmoil.

Acting

Yelizar Nazarenko
Yelizar Nazarenko is brilliant as Roman

The dialogue is partly in Russian, partly in German and, while that helps in character development, the emotive expressions and posture of the young Yelizar Nazarenko are essential — as a significant part of the storytelling is seemingly achieved by pointing the camera at him.

Trailer

A young boy sitting on the ground, hugging his knees – is a great example of a posture that doesn’t show his emotions but highlights how he is dealing with them. Emotions create a prevailing mood, while his posture and body language create a dynamic that allows the viewer to understand the trials and tribulations the young boy has to face.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Roman; Yelizar Nazarenko is in just about every scene of the movie resulting in one of the most powerful acting performances in a character driven Coming-of-Age drama you will ever witness.

Reflections

If you come from an immigrant background (like myself), associating with the story’s young protagonist will not be difficult to achieve. The challenge starts when one has to determine with whom his/her own sympathies lie. One can empathize with Roman for his young age and innocence, but when we get to know his mother or her elderly German employer, we see that, as in life, things are never really in black and white, and one should never be in a rush to pass judgment.

Rival has the undeniable flair and atmosphere of independent European cinema. It tells a story of real people realistically. And even the sudden and cruel finale contributes to the overall impact of the picture by allowing the viewer to interpret the outcome of one boy’s loss of innocence, in his/her own manner.

Rival (2020)
96 min|Drama|21 Oct 2020
7.7Rating: 7.7 / 10 from 21 usersMetascore: N/A
Nine-year-old Roman follows his mother Oksana to Germany where she is working illegally. She is living there with the 62-year-old widower Gert who suffers from diabetes. Gert tries to make ...
Rival (2020)
In short
Rival is a Coming-of-Age film exploring themes such as jealousy, rivalry, illegal immigration, and growing up in an odd and dreary atmosphere.
Character/Acting
Score/Soundtrack
Cinematography
Storyline/Screenplay
Production
Direction
Reader Rating0 Votes
5
Our rating

The Djinn (2021)

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The 2021 American thriller, The Djinn, is a perfect example of a full-featured movie that could be much more effective as a short film. However, its good-looking poster artwork and enticing tagline, “what is done cannot be undone”,  promised much more than the film was able to deliver to its audience.

The flick’s premise is simple, with its cliché ridden–plot, props, and production design as a whole. Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey) is a twelve year old mute boy who has recently moved into a new house with his father (Rob Brownstein).

Left alone one night, Dylan starts exploring the house and stumbles upon a weird antique book with the peculiar title:  Book of Shadows. In the book, Dylan reads a passage that promises that, if one completes a simple ritual, it would summon a demonic spirit of desire known as Djinn, who will grant one wish for anyone who manages to survive an hour in his presence. Curious and enthralled, Dylan decides to give it a try hoping that the Djinn can fulfill his greatest desire and grant him a voice of his own.

Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey)
Dylan Jacobs (Ezra Dewey)

From this moment on in the film, viewers should buckle up alongside Dylan as he experiences an evening of fright and survival. Or at least that’s what one would hope for and expect anyway. But, unfortunately, the many flaws in the film soon become apparent. The story drags on and on, the space in which the action takes place is very confined, and the happening itself causes a sense of boredom, which is not even salvaged by the filmmaker’s predictable attempt at waking up the viewer with the help of jump scares.

The only redeeming quality of the film is the acting of the young Ezra Dewey, who practically caries the whole movie, appearing in just about every scene and showcasing his acting talent by portraying a mute boy relying on the emotions reflected on his face.

But, unfortunately, it all feels like a game of Hide and Seek with the Djinn, which could have worked in a 15 minute film, but was completely boring in the 82 minutes of screen time devoted to the plot.

The Djinn feels like an R rated Home Alone, but the truth is you’d be better off watching Home Alone once again rather than wasting your time watching this film.

Trailer

 

The Djinn (2021)
In short
Despite superb acting by its young protagonist, The Djinn is a too long attempt at being scary that would have been better as a short film.
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2
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Marry Me (2008)

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Marry me 2008

Marry Me is a heartwarming short story written and directed by Michelle Lehman. It tells the story of a young girl who has a crush on a boy and is determined to marry him. Childhood love is the most beautiful thing ever, and so is this film. Marry Me portrays a girl who is madly in love with her younger neighbour Jason. But at six years old, a boy is interested in everything BUT girls!!  He has other ideas of spending his time – following the bigger boys while trying to tune up his bike and become a real pro.

She tries everything to get noticed by him. She tries to spend a lot of time with him, but he doesn’t care. He wants to grow up to be like the older boys, and he doesn’t see what she is doing for him. Does he love his bike? Fine! So she learns how to bike without the trails (training wheels)! In the story, you see her growing up. She’s making a lot of progress but fails to get his attention until the moment she can jump the springboard. This performance impresses Jason, who is still unable to do it.

My bike is not pink anymore

Determination pays.  And she gets what she wants! Considering the age of the actors, it’s quite possible that they did not even have to get into a role – as at that age the attitude of boys towards girls ( and vice versa ) is pretty much the same all over the world. The film involves some symbolism and gender stereotypes, such as the distinction between girlish and boyish colours (pink versus blue and green) and what sacrifices one can make for love (like trying to change the colour of your bike so it can appear more appealing to the one you have a crush on).

When I watched it, I thought it was an old movie from the ’80s, like a flashback of how life was when we were young. This short film reminded me of when I was in elementary school. The girls played far from the boys, and nobody wanted to be associated with the other gender.  When there was a couple, it was a significant event in the playground!  Marry Me makes me think of my young days with nostalgia. It is very well done.

The directing of the film is exceptional, which comes as no surprise if we take into account that Director Michelle Lehman specialised in kids photography before involving herself with the cine. The camera movement is smooth, slow motion and close-ups scenes are used for emphasis, and the focus is sharp — effectively blurring the background and showcasing the beautiful expressions of the film’s leads, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jahla Bryant.

Dreams

In an interview, Michelle says:

I’d like to move out of photography, which is the job I do to support my filmmaking,” she says. “I’d love to do TV commercials, and I’d love to do kids’ films.” [1]

She describes her film, Marry Me, as a story: “…based in the ’80s and it’s about a little girl who wants to marry a little boy and he just wants to play with his BMX bike “[2]

Not surprisingly, Marry Me is inspired by a true story based on her childhood experiences.

Marry Me won the 2008 Tropfest festival (the largest short film festival in the world).

Watch Marry Me ( 2008)

Marry Me ( 2008 ) is a joint review of skykid and Shane Foxx ( you can find Shane at his YouTube channel, and while you are there, don’t forget to subscribe to his videos )

 

  1. Little film, big break (Sacha Molitorisz, published at Brisbane times)
  2. Tropfest winner looks at schoolyard love (ABS local )

Perfect Obedience (2014)

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Perfect Obedience 2014Attaining perfect obedience? Can this be an honourable goal for anyone? Is a goal worth pursuing?!? …

The Mexican director Luis Urquiza explores various horrid ways to lose one`s innocence, sacrificing the latitude to make one’s own decisions and betray trust.

Based on real events, the story in Perfect Obedience focuses on the experiences of 13-year-old Julian (Sebastian Aguirre), who attains attendance at a seminary to prepare him for the priesthood. The first scenes convey a sense of idealism — as if to portray the bliss of childhood, surrounded by people who genially care and love you.

Like in Pedro Almodovar’s 2004 film Bad Education (which also has a similar narrative), the blissful depiction of innocence and happiness is achieved through the use of lighting, attention to details and choice of locations. Immersed in this heavenly atmosphere, the viewer is being prepared for the protagonist’s inevitable loss of his ideal world….

TheSkyKid.com Review: Perfect Obedience Scene
TheSkyKid.com Review: Perfect Obedience Scene

a goal no one should pursue ….

Initially, I was led to believe that the film would be inspirational – like the 1962 film Almost Angels – the difference being that the young protagonist in Perfect Obedience is to become a priest instead of a member of a renowned choir.

Julian joins the seminary and faces challenges common to children facing a change in their lives, such as a new school and new acquaintances – some friendly, others not. That`s life! While separated from the external world, the boys who study for the priesthood have the exact wishes and desires as any other kid, which often leads them into mischief. In this regard, I’m reminded of another film about youth in a religious environment: Peter Care`s The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.

Sebastian Aguirre and Juan Manuel Bernal deliver excellent performances in the leads roles of Perfect Obedience
Sebastian Aguirre and Juan Manuel Bernal deliver excellent performances in the leads roles of Perfect Obedience.

The priests who form the seminary faculty appear ready to offer spiritual help and guidance and teach religion with a passion. They encourage the young boys to be courageous and express themselves freely. Yet, it becomes clear that the ultimate goal of some is to attain the perfect obedience of their pupils.

Even before watching the film, the viewer may become wary of what the term “perfect obedience” means upon seeing the quote from the Bible featured on a poster prominently displayed on the film’s cover. From Matthew 7:15, “Beware of the false teachers–men who come to you in sheep’s fleeces, but beneath that disguise, they are ravenous wolves”.

Sebastian Aguirre in the Mexican movie Perfect Obedience
Sebastian Aguirre in the Mexican movie Perfect Obedience

In addition to the beautiful cinematography, one of the best features of this film is its soundtrack, which offers a diverse selection of vibes that accompany the scenes: religious hymns, melancholic piano, Spanish Rock and even a song performed by The Rolling Stones. Add to that the film`s theme – a song that bears much of the responsibility for the sense of uneasiness in the viewers …

 

Perfect Obedience Trailer

Perfect Obedience is not lacking in clichés in addressing its controversial subject matter. But the film doesn’t make its judgements but instead leaves such moral judgments to the viewer. One doesn’t realise it, but the stronger emotions and reflections on what is shown occur after rather than during the film’s screen time. There is nothing graphically shown in the film but, rather, only implied. The finale, so unlike the typical happy endings of most American productions, ensures that the viewer will become disturbed …yet willing to make a contribution toward change.

While Perfect Obedience is not poignant and heart-wrenching like Aisling Walsh`s 2003 film Song for a Raggy Boy it intrigues enough to keep the viewer’s attention — making use of philosophical and religious thoughts introduced as voice-over narrative. Sebastian Aguirre’s character is present in almost all of the film’s scenes since the story is mainly presented through his eyes – following his loss of innocence on his way to achieving perfect obedience. It’s a goal no one should pursue ….

Perfect Obedience (2014)
In short
The story of a 13-year-old boy who attains attendance at a seminary to prepare him for the priesthood.
Character/Acting
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Reader Rating0 Votes
3.2
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Adeus, Pai (1996)

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Adeus, Pai (1996) DVD CoverI have seen many Coming-of-Age films. Yet never have I seen one with such a touching and beautiful story as the 1996 Portuguese drama Adeus, Pai (Farewell, Father). At thirteen years old, Filipe (Jose Afonso Pimentel) feels the absence of his father, who is always busy and never has time to spend with his son.

One night Felipe’s dreams suddenly come true when his father enters the room and announces that they’re going on vacation

Adeus, Pai (1996)
A MUST SEE
A heartwarming story with a superb Coming-of-Age narrative. It is the film I would refer anyone to who asks for a pure example of the Coming-of-Age genre in cinema.
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Reader Rating1 Vote
5
OUR RATING

Skaterdater (1965)

Do you know what once was America’s Newest Sport?

skaterdaterSkaterdater is the fourth short movie in the series of short movies I am reviewing at  theskykid.com. From the stats of my blog, I see that the reviews raise some interest which, of course, encourages me to keep on with the trend even if I would have loved it if someone shared his own view in the comments section after reading my review and watching the films.

The movie itself is quite famous and has achieved a status of a classic. However, not only does Skaterdater pay homage to the 1960s skateboard craze, but it also has another significant importance… it is the first film for director Carroll Ballard (he was second unit cinematographer on Skaterdater, and the shooting style can be seen in his later films), and a UCLA Film School classmate of Francis Ford Coppola.

Carroll Ballard has been the director of several great films with young people: The Black Stallion (Francis Ford Coppola, Executive Producer), Fly Away Home, and Duma. I liked the music (Davie Allan and the Arrows) even though I am not that familiar with surf guitar – but it reminded me of the vibes of the Beach Boys. However, I did not like the ending. Or, rather, how the story developed. I felt like screaming “Keep on Skating,” … but you will see what I mean.

Skaterdater is quite a cool short movie with a Coming of Age theme. And, even though there are no spoken words, the story is easy to follow. While it tells a story without using any dialogue, the scenes, camera angles, and final cut speak for themselves. The film reminded me of my own childhood, when all my friends were irritated by me as I preferred to spend time with my girlfriend instead of playing soccer with them.

Skaterdater won nine international film awards and is often thought of as a visual essay on growing up.

“….. a group of 1965 barefooted skateboarders with their single-striped windbreakers hanging 10 on their clay-wheeled pinner board.”

Chicken Boy (2019)

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Chicken boy posterChicken Boy, pitched as a “dark coming-of-age story”, opens in a disturbing, yet promising manner. But the story’s effectiveness is subsequently brought down by abrupt editing and a somewhat puzzling narrative structure.

The film’s young protagonist, Jacob (Charlie Koehnen), is subjected to bullying in school and neglect at home – the metaphors utilized in the film to symbolize his struggle to deal with the psychological turmoil he’s experiencing are not grasped easily by the viewer.

This is partly offset by the facial expressions of Charlie Koehnen – for whom Chicken Boy is only the second film he’s made in his young life. In an interview for New York No Limits, Chicken Boy‘s director, Kayla Arend, summarized the film’s theme as “ … a creative exploration of toxic masculinity, the lack of gun control and mental health support within the United States”. But while the director’s stated goals for the film are ambitious, most viewers will not be able to pinpoint those motifs within the narrative.

Chicken Boy (2019)
In short
Chicken Boy, described as a "dark coming-of-age story", has great acting but suffers from a weak narrative.
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Reader Rating0 Votes
2.3
Our rating

Padrenostro (2020)

Based on real events, the 2020 Italian film Padrenostro tells the story of 10 year old Valerio (Mattia Garaci), whose life is is turned upside down when he witnesses the attack on his father (Pierfrancesco Favino) by a group of terrorists.

Padrenostro offers much more than mere escapist entertainment.

It may take more than one viewing to grasp the story’s nuances, but the beautiful aesthetics and exemplary cinematography more than compensate for the time invested.

Beautiful aesthetics and exemplary cinematography

Mattia Garaci
Mattia Garaci as Valerio in PadreNostro

The deliberately slow pacing of the film allows the viewer to invest in the world of the film’s protagonist. As with most Coming-of-Age narratives, it’s essential to grasp the development of his character and the motivations behind his actions to fully appreciate the development of his character arc.

Cinematographically the film is a real masterpiece.
Cinematographically the film is a real masterpiece.

Cinematographically, the film is a real masterpiece. The cinematic techniques help fill in details about the life of the young Valerio , such as a scene of the boy as he is made to stand in front of his class. At the same time, his father is proclaimed a hero by their teacher, with a highly stylized zoom out transmiting a sense of isolation or selective focus That technique is used in other scenes to achieve the same effect.

Friendship unbound

Before meeting Christian (Francesco Gheghi), Valerio thinks of his father as his only friend in the world, which explains why he is so shaken after the terrorist attempt against him.  If anything were to happen to his father, Valerio would be in danger of being alone in the world.

The character of Christian is intriguing – an older friend whose presence and influence reflects on the ten year old Valerio in a liberating manner. However, due to his sudden appearance in the younger boy’s life, and his persistence to remain part of it, the viewer may never shed a suspicion about Christian’s motives for befriending him.

Valerio (Mattia Garaci) looking for answers – an eye-level shot implying a connection between the viewers and the young boy
Valerio (Mattia Garaci) looking for answers – an eye-level shot implying a connection between the viewers and the young boy

Acting Performance

Many of the scenes are felt poignantly as the camera points directly at the young actor’s face. In one scene, we feel as if we can peer into his eyes. In others, we read his emotions directly– no words needed. This speaks volumes about the talent of Mattia Garaci and that of the director who has managed to extract such an emotive performance from the young actor. Fortunately enough that’s the case, as Mattia is present in almost every scene of the film – a fact that devotees of Coming-of-Age cinema will greatly appreciate.

No words needed to feel the character`s emotions
No words needed to feel the character`s emotions

Whereas it is doubtful that many viewers will be able to identify with the film’s protagonist due to the specifics of his family situation, and the time period in which the action is set, identifying with his experience of finding a real friend is plausible. I could not help but notice a few of Charles Dickens’s influences on the narrative of Padrenostro as the streetwiseness of Christian and the naïve/good-natured Valerio reminds one of the Artful Dodger and Oliver Twist. Friendship turns into a central theme of the film. And, while some viewers may miss the significance of the opening scene in that regard, it is easily graspable upon repeated viewing.

Valerio (Mattia Garaci) and Christian (Francesco Gheghi)
Valerio (Mattia Garaci) and Christian (Francesco Gheghi)

The Musical Score

The musical score predominately comprises a mixture between classical pieces and Italian songs– either subtle or rousing as the scene requires. More frequently than not, the sound is used to create suspense, raising the tension toward an expected major event, an event that never really materializes. But despite the fact that nothing that dramatic happens, the fact that one expects for it to happen makes one more attentive to the story. The end result is a better understanding of the characters by better gauging their emotions as the result of that increased attention.

Francesco Gheghi
Francesco Gheghi

Padrenostro lacks the dynamics of other recent Italian Coming-of-Age dramas such as Stolen Days (Original title: Il ladro di giorni), but the viscous fluidity of the action more than compensates for that.  Essentially the film is about childhood, with organized crime (a theme ever-present in some of the best Italian narratives) assuming a background position.

The production design, cinematography, camerawork, musical score, and acting – all of the cinematic elements combined – result in a powerful portrayal of growing up in a tense environment and overcoming the trials and tribulations of life. Padrenostro is an excellent Coming-of-Age drama whose only flaw is the unnecessarily long screen time.

Trailer 

 

Padrenostro (2020)
In short
The production design, cinematography, camerawork, musical score, and acting of Padrenostro – all of the cinematic elements combined – result in a powerful portrayal of growing up in a tense environment.
Character/Acting
Score/Soundtrack
Cinematography
Storyline/Screenplay
Production
Direction
Reader Rating3 Votes
4.8
Our rating

The Quarry (2010)

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the-quarry-2010Do you remember that girl, your first love – her smile, the butterflies in your stomach? You probably do, but in case you’ve forgotten (how could you??) Ryan Hanson‘s 2005 short film The Quarry will revive those magical moments for you.

The story is simple enough. Charlie (Ruben de Baat), a boy of twelve, creates the most personal gift for his friend’s best friend, Natalie (Meagan Brodie). It’s a mixtape containing songs with words expressing his feelings to her, and it’s a farewell present  –for Natalie’s family is moving away…

Wait a minute!! … cassette tape, hand-drawn covers, art, record players – it all sounds so retro now, yet the props and stylistic of the film display the right tone to the people who have grown up with those things. They help turn the story of Charlie and Natalie into a nostalgic window into one’s past.

The film’s cinematography and editing reinforce that feel too. Jump cuts in an MTV stylistic are utilized to portray what goes on in a young boy’s mind (‘cuz frankly, things can get pretty messy up there), while slow-motion captures moments as sweet as syrup, meant to be savored.

Ruben de Baat as Charlie in The Quarry (2010)
Ruben de Baat as Charlie in The Quarry (2010)

There is an added dynamic introduced by other characters in the movie: the curious parents, eager friends, and mean older kids. And then there’s the beautiful musical score (the film is set to the mixtape Charlie made for Natalie). Admittedly, The Quarry is not the thought-provoking, epic short film some may hope for, and the young actors are not convincing in every scene, but it’s a story that’s sweet and tender – beautiful in its simplicity.

The Quarry (2010)

13 min|Short, Drama|N/A
6.7Rating: 6.7 / 10 from 30 usersMetascore: N/A
Set in the 1990's, The Quarry takes place over the course of one day, following the main character, Charlie. 12-year-old Charlie's best friend Natalie is moving away, and as he confronts …

The Quarry (2010)

0

the-quarry-2010Do you remember that girl, your first love – her smile, the butterflies in your stomach? You probably do, but in case you’ve forgotten (how could you??) Ryan Hanson‘s 2005 short film The Quarry will revive those magical moments for you.

The story is simple enough. Charlie (Ruben de Baat), a boy of twelve, creates the most personal gift for his friend’s best friend, Natalie (Meagan Brodie). It’s a mixtape containing songs with words expressing his feelings to her, and it’s a farewell present  –for Natalie’s family is moving away…

Wait a minute!! … cassette tape, hand-drawn covers, art, record players – it all sounds so retro now, yet the props and stylistic of the film display the right tone to the people who have grown up with those things. They help turn the story of Charlie and Natalie into a nostalgic window into one’s past.

The film’s cinematography and editing reinforce that feel too. Jump cuts in an MTV stylistic are utilized to portray what goes on in a young boy’s mind (‘cuz frankly, things can get pretty messy up there), while slow-motion captures moments as sweet as syrup, meant to be savored.

Ruben de Baat as Charlie in The Quarry (2010)
Ruben de Baat as Charlie in The Quarry (2010)

There is an added dynamic introduced by other characters in the movie: the curious parents, eager friends, and mean older kids. And then there’s the beautiful musical score (the film is set to the mixtape Charlie made for Natalie). Admittedly, The Quarry is not the thought-provoking, epic short film some may hope for, and the young actors are not convincing in every scene, but it’s a story that’s sweet and tender – beautiful in its simplicity.

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The Quarry (2010)

13 min|Short, Drama|N/A
6.7Rating: 6.7 / 10 from 30 usersMetascore: N/A
Set in the 1990's, The Quarry takes place over the course of one day, following the main character, Charlie. 12-year-old Charlie's best friend Natalie is moving away, and as he confronts …