The Children of Times Square is a 1986 American made-for-television criminal drama film directed by Curtis Hanson.
The plot is powerful enough to attract spectators more than 30 years after the film’s initial release, and it is filled with dynamics and Coming-of-Age overtones.
The story revolves around Eric (Brandon Douglas), a teenager who escapes his home and ends up in Times Square, where he joins The Leopards, a band of young people who have ended up working for Otis (Howard E. Rollins Jr.), a cocaine dealer.
The city gives fugitives two alternatives for survival: sell their bodies or sell drugs. Eric eventually chooses the second choice.
Overall the plot is relatively straightforward and not free of clichés; however, the fantastic ensemble of young performers more than compensates for any weaknesses in the film.
The development of Eric’s character is important enough to consider the film of the Coming-of-Age genre, even though the film is mainly aimed at being a cautionary story for youth who may consider running away. The acting performances (with a few exceptions – such as Joanna Cassidy in the role of Eric’s overly concerned mother overacting in some scenes) are top notch across the board. One may argue that Brandon Douglas isn’t the most believable runaway as, more often than not, he seems to remain relatively clean and unspoiled for the part. Yet one manages to identify with his character, which boosts the engagement factor of the story.
The character of Otis emerges as a contemporary version of Charles Dickens’s Fagin, seeing how he utilizes the juvenile runaways to sell drugs, taking advantage of the fact that their youth renders them immune to punishment if they are caught. Howard E. Rollins Jr. offers a nuanced portrayal in the part of Otis and, despite the moral implications, one can’t help but like his character, which eases one’s comprehension of why kids might want to work for him.
From the opening scene, the film’s iconic musical theme keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. The music acts as an overture, foreshadowing the story’s intensity. The film has an indisputable 80s aesthetic, which could be another point of attraction for people who have fond memories of the period.
The narrative does get preachy by the end, but this is somewhat expected. Naturally, you can’t expect a movie of the caliber of Larry Clark‘s Kids, yet The Children of Times Square manages to be both unsettling and intriguing.
The Children of Times Square (1986)
The Children of Times Square is a 1986 American made-for-television criminal drama film with a plot is powerful enough to attract spectators more than 30 years after the film's initial release.
At times, having seen so many Coming-of-Age films, I worry that possibly I have seen all the good ones and am unlikely to come upon another that will utterly provoke and move me. Then a film such as Philippe Claudel’sA Childhood (Original title: Une enfance) comes along, and the cinematic magic returns in full force, and I worry no more.
Set in a northern French industrial town (which reminded me of the German city of Dortmund), A Childhood tells the story of 13-year-old Jimmy (Alexi Mathieu), who is forced to grow up prematurely. As the eldest child, Jimmy has to not only look after himself but care for his little half-brother Kevin (Jules Gauzelin). At the same time, their mother is “busy enjoying life” alongside her latest boyfriend, which translates into frequent drinking parties and drug abuse. Although not intentionally (or so one hopes), Jimmy and Kevin are neglected and have to find ways to fit into the world on their own.
An original take on the dysfunctional family theme
While one may recognize the dysfunctional family element that frequents the narratives of films belonging to the Coming-of-age genre, the story related in A Childhood is void of clichés. It provides a highly poignant portrait of its young protagonist.
A Childhood has no problem capturing and maintaining one’s interest for its entire duration. Unlike some films that make one slightly bored after a while, you will find yourself wishing that the story continues long after the film’s closing credits roll.
This is not to say that all scenes are good-natured ones. Yet most are and feature creative interludes with stunning visuals (though, for the most part, just portraying everyday life) and well-chosen music pieces characterized by lyrics that fit the film’s theme (in an almost poetic manner). The result: a very rewarding viewing experience. Some of the scenes are almost like a mini movie within the movie itself and, together they produce Coming-of-Age cinema at its best!
Philippe Claudel (who wrote and directed the film) employs many devices and techniques to ensure that no one will remain indifferent to Jimmy’s story. The action in the film is not just physical, but internal, philosophical, and emotional. There is so much suspense in at least one scene that the tension becomes physically palpable.
A Childhood features exemplary yet moving delineation of its young protagonist Jimmy (Alexi Mathieu), which eases one’s understanding of his personality. Thanks to the ingenious development of his character, while observing his reactions to people and events, identification and sympathy with the young boy comes naturally. The dramatization of his struggle for dignity, love (not just parental) and his desire for a “normal” childhood, against all odds, (having a carefree mother and her easily irritable boyfriend), is hugely moving.
Thanks to the wonderful acting performance by the entire cast, the film’s characters felt real and their actions believable – which resulted in highly credible storytelling. So much so that, in many of the characters, I recognized people with whom I have encountered at one time or another – youth and adult alike. The screen presence of Alexi Matheieu is nothing short of extraordinary (despite his lack of prior acting experience), Reaction shots (tight close-ups) are used frequently on his expressive face, allowing a glimpse into his eyes and soul and allowing the viewer to almost feel his emotions.
The cute appearance and innocence (for he is still a kid and has Jimmy to shield him from life’s disappointments) and the unmistakable talent of Jules Gauzelin as Jimmy’s little brother, further enhance Jimmy’s story by revealing traits of Jimmy’s character and providing a contrasting alternative of a kid who is yet to face the challenges of life. This is just one of the contrasts present in the film’s narrative. Others include a comparison of social classes, circumstances and settings.
The interactions between Jimmy and Kevin form a splendid portrait of brotherly love – expressed in actions, rather the words.
A Must See
More often than not good movies get spoiled by mediocre endings. Thankfully the finale of A Childhood doesn’t suffer from this imperfection and manages to evoke strong emotions –likely to bring tears to the eyes of many viewers. Without any doubt, A Childhood is a masterpiece of the Coming-of-age cinema and is the equal of other great titles such as the Dardenne Brothers’ The Kid with a Bike and Ursula Meier’sSister (both sharing its original take and dramatic impact). It is a must see for anyone looking for quality cinema, fine-tuned to perfection!
A Childhood Trailer
A Childhood (2015)
99 min|Drama|23 Sep 2015
6.8Rating: 6.8 / 10 from 308 users
As summer drags by, 13-year-old Jimmy, forced by circumstance to become an adult too soon, runs up against the limits of his small hometown and his turbulent life, caught between a mother on the slide and a stepfather who keeps he…
Director:Philippe Claudel Creator:Philippe Claudel Actors:Alexi Mathieu, Angelica Sarre, Pierre Deladonchamps
The movie was released on DVD February 16, 2016
A Childhood (2015)
A must see !
A Childhood features stunning visuals and wonderful acting by the entire cast resulting in cinematic magic.
One of the most important benefits of watching movies (and in particular Coming-of-Age films) from various countries around the world is the chance they provide to glimpse the day-to-day lives of the people who inhabit them. It often comes as a surprise that, while the nature and the culture might differ from country to country, the issues that need to be addressed are often universal – all part of human nature.
In this 2013 Coming-of-Age movie from Finland with a peculiar title, Above Dark Waters (originally: Tumman veden päällä), we are treated to a candid look into the childhood experiences of young Pete (Olavi Angervo). On the surface, it appears positively idyllic – with loving parents, a little sister and caring grandparents. Yet, it soon becomes clear that behind the harmonic family façade lie darker secrets. One night Pete is awakened by shouts of anger and crying. Soon the little boy and his sister are taken by their mother to their grandparents’ house, while Pete’s stepfather is nowhere to be seen. It soon becomes clear that the stepfather has an issue with alcohol that begins to manifest itself via violent outbursts, casting a dark shadow over the family’s happiness.
As the story unfolds from the perspective of its young protagonist Pete (who appears in just about every scene of the film), it is fortunate that Olavi Angervo turned out to be such a talented actor despite his tender age and relatively little experience in front of the camera. Olvai, while a newcomer to the cinema, took part in several theatrical plays in his native Finland prior to being cast as Pete in Above Dark Waters. His charismatic appearance and convincing expressions liven up the scenes and result in what I consider to be one of the best portrayals of childhood innocence I have ever seen on screen. It’s an innocence that struggles to resist all the darker moments in his youthful life, an innocence that allows Pete to keep thinking positively and learn to see beyond the present – an essential step in everyone’s Coming-of-Age.
Scandinavian filmmakers are renowned for their ability to enhance their vintage settings in a way that appeals to modern-day audiences, achieving a visual manner of storytelling for which many film directors aim. The production design of Above Dark Waters, with all its period props, sets and costumes, successfully evokes a nostalgic feel into what, on first impression, appears to be a carefree childhood of the 70s.
The sincere, true-to-life approach to storytelling applied by the film’s director, Peter Franzén, does not translate into swift developments. Many viewers may find the film’s 140 minutes slightly excessive. That lengthiness also results in some scenes feeling monotonous.
Most viewers will relate to the events on the screen, possibly associating them with happenings from their childhoods. The film deals predominately with domestic violence from the child’s point of view. Still, as childhood traumas of perhaps different natures are present in everyone’s past, hopefully, as we mature, we’ve found ways to deal with them.
Above Dark Waters Official Trailer
Above Dark Waters (2013)
108 min|Drama|06 Sep 2013
6.5Rating: 6.5 / 10 from 549 users
A ravishing story about little Pete and his survival and growth in the gray area between love and fear.
The storyline of Richard Benjamin’s 1994 film, Milk Money, starts “innocently” enough. Three boys living in the suburbs are very confused by the “battle of the sexes”—articles in magazines such as Cosmopolitan trigger their youthful curiosity. After getting vague responses from their parents to the question if it’s true, “there is a spot on a woman you can touch to drive her completely insane”, they decide that the only way to resolve their doubts is to see a naked lady. As one of them puts it “… if I had my own naked lady, I would never leave my room.” As such a woman is not available in their immediate vicinity, they decide to gather some cash (“Milk Money”) and then head to the city where they have heard that there are naked ladies all around if you have guts and resources.
Once in the city, and after some misfortunate twists of fate, they manage to befriend V – a prostitute who gives them a ride home after their bikes go missing while they were satisfying their curiosity. When the Mafia starts hunting down V for stolen cash, she has to stay in the suburbs, and everything goes completely out of control.
Undoubtedly, Milk Money is one of the funkiest, uplifting, heartwarmingly witty Coming-of-Age comedies I have ever seen. I had a smile on my face during its entire screen time, primarily because of bizarre situations or wicked one-liners. And that is just for starters. If you add to the mix a cute young cast, incredibly sexy female lead (Melanie Griffith) and a wild, rocky musical score… well, you get the picture.
Though the storyline is predominately humorous, it features at least one scene charged with so many emotions that it makes it nearly impossible for one to remain indifferent. At that point, I had tears in my eyes — and this time, they were not drawn out from laughter.
Milk Money Trailer
The acting in Milk Money is truly marvellous, not only by the three young leads (Michael Patrick Carter, Adam LaVorgna and Brian Christopher) but also by the entire support cast. It’s rare to see so many capable actors whose facial expressions and reactions contribute so much to the movie’s overall appeal.
Do yourself a favour and seek out Milk Money now, for its comedy, drama, Coming-of-Age nuances and everything in between. I highly recommend it!
Oh! And at the end, one gets to know the right place where you can touch a woman that will drive her crazy!
Milk Money (1994)
110 min|Comedy, Romance|31 Aug 1994
5.6Rating: 5.6 / 10 from 12,130 users
A group of young boys befriend a prostitute named, V.
Director:Richard Benjamin Creator:John Mattson Actors:Melanie Griffith, Ed Harris, Michael Patrick Carter
Milk Money (1994)
Do yourself a favor and seek out Milk Money now, for its comedy, drama, Coming-of-Age nuances and everything in between. Highly recommended!
First love is a commonly addressed theme in the Coming-of-Age genre. But although many harbour nostalgic memories of it, most adults unwittingly underestimate its strength and significance, waving it off as unreal and immature. Undoubtedly this might be the case for some, but for others, the intensity of feelings is in no way inferior to any they may have felt in relationships as adults. Thankfully, the movies in the Coming-of-Age genre explore the entire spectrum of human emotions and communicate those feelings through the cinematic art.
“My name is Ludovic Maris… and I’m not afraid of anything!“
C’est pas moi, je le jure! is a charming Coming-of-Age film from Canada which will bring a lot of smiles and memories to anyone who devotes a little less than two hours to see it.
Everyone wants to be extraordinary, and the protagonist of the film, Léon, is no exception. What’s more, he would frown at anyone who would dare to call him an ordinary, normal boy. By the end of the film, one gets the chance to discover just how special he is. Like most boys out there, he is mischievous at times, but he is also an intelligent and emotional lad trying hard to make sense of the world surrounding him. This is not an easy task for anyone, let alone a 10-year-old boy.
Léon lives with his parents and older brother Jerome (Gabriel Maille) in a suburban Quebec house. His parents are always fighting; A typical dysfunctional family until the mother decides she wants a divorce one day. So his mother leaves for Greece to find peace there, where “the sky is always blue.” The film is mainly focused on the consequences of her decision to leave and its effect on her children and her husband.
There are numerous layers to this intriguing drama that incorporates many complex relationships, and there are many perspectives to consider. Léon’s Coming-of-Age, as shown in the film, is transformed into a tale of the difficult adolescence of a young boy who is attempting to bring his family back together.
The casting of It’s Not Me I Swear is quite good. All adult actors deliver excellent, believable performances, but the movie’s young stars steal the hearts of the viewer. You will be pleasantly impressed by the performance of a novice in the film industry once again. Antoine L’Écuyer, in the role of Leon, fits well in this complicated role of a child who creates his misfortune. Léon’s disobedient actions are unable to conceal his deep sorrow, rage, and sense of loss of innocence. In the press release of the film, its director, Philippe Falardeau, states:
“We auditioned 80 boys, then we called back 15, but as soon as I saw Antoine L’Écuyer (grandson of famous Quebec actor Guy L’Écuyer), I knew he had what I was looking for: gravity in his expression and a physical flippancy.”
The visual effects of the film leave a lasting impression on the viewer. Great colorful overhead shots and unique photography (by André Turpin) make It’s Not Me, I Swear! a real treat for the senses. The cinematography is exceptional, and the set design and clothing are faithful to the era. Overall, the picture exudes an extraordinary warmth, often associated with a quality “rites of passage” narrative. The only other film with such astonishing visuals that I could recall is “Toto the Hero“.
As is usually the case with films like these, there are many life lessons to be learned. One of the most extraordinary things about Coming-of-Age films is that they always leave you feeling wiser after you’ve seen them.
C’est pas moi, je le jure! (It’s Not Me, I Swear!)
I’m always looking for a good Coming-of-Age novel to read, and I recently discovered Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson.
The story is set in a dystopian future. The government has enforced strict laws to limit the population by allowing families only to have two children – a third child can’t exist – at least not legally. Yet when the story opens, we meet Luke, a twelve-year-old boy with two older brothers. Yes, Luke is a third child, and, as such, he has spent his entire life in hiding:
“…He had never disobeyed the order to hide …Luke didn’t know if there was anyone else like him. He wasn’t supposed to exist.”
Breaking the population law comes with some serious consequences, which is why Luke’s family makes sure their third son is not discovered, especially by the population police, who are always on the lookout for third children. This has forced the little boy to live a secluded life, never to leave his house, unlike his older brothers Mark and Matthew, who are free to live in the full sight of the whole world.
One day, disobeying the strict instructions of his father, Luke sneaks a peek into a neighbouring house and, to his surprise, sees a face in one window — a child’s face, a face that’s not supposed to be there. Risking a lot and possibly his life, he decides to sneak into the neighbouring house and, once there, he meets Jen Talbot – a young girl just like him…or not.
Jen is a member of the elite class, yet still a third child just like Luke. She reveals her secret plans to rally to overturn the Population Law that makes third children illegal. But doing so will expose her and her newfound friend to huge danger…which really scares Luke: “Just my luck, Luke thought. I finally meet another third child, and she’s absolutely crazy.”
Among The Hidden –Book Trailer
The novel’s chapters are concise and almost always end in a manner that makes one anxious to start the next one and find out what will happen – much like the endings in a television serial. This, and the fact that Among the Hidden is undoubtedly a Coming-of-Age novel with a 12-year-old protagonist, makes it suitable for kids and teens who will associate with the character.
The novel’s story as allegory perfectly fits the sentiments of a wide variety of modern-day minorities, societies and even individuals (such as myself as at the time of reading I can identify with Luke based on common experiences and observations), all of which makes it an intriguing read for older readers as well.
Despite the short chapters, the pace at which the narrative develops is not a rapid one. Yet, as it reflects on the existence that Luke is forced into, it is accurate and allows the reader to really get to know him and his world (both inner and outer).
Although we perceive the world through a young boy’s eyes, one is guaranteed to compare the state of and beliefs of the society he lives in with several we know from history. As making those parallels between the story world and the one in which we live is a big part of the enjoyment that one derives from the novel, I won’t describe my own findings. Still, I will mention that the manner used to describe the world is similar to George Orwell’s in his dystopian novel 1984.
Among the Hidden is the first of seven novels in the Shadow Children series, and it is so good that it has me impatient to start the next book. For those looking for an exciting Coming-of-Age novel to read, I highly recommend Among the Hidden.
Death ain’t nothing to be afraid about. It’s life that’s fearsome.
Susanna Styron’s 1998 film, Shadrach, is a slow-moving drama that enables spectators to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of 1935 Virginia while also making social commentary on socioeconomic classes, segregation, and human dignity.
The main character, a ninety-nine-year-old Black man who was once a slave, returns to his former plantation grounds to be buried there.
The story is recounted from the perspective of ten-year-old Paul Whitehurst (a masterfully portrayed by Scott Terra), who spends time with the hick family that owns the land and ostensibly recalls the summer he learned not to fear death, and that it is living that will kill you.
Except for the fact that the narrative seems to be underdeveloped at times, the tale feels vignette-like and personal, and it has several Coming-of-Age themes that lovers of the genre will no doubt appreciate.
The film includes an intriguing voice-over narration by a grown-up narrator who remembers his childhood days, and he does it with a strong southern accent to boot. Even though it is not everyone’s favorite approach to storytelling, the voice-over narration in a memoir-style allows one to experience some of the same sensations as reading an intriguing novel.
Shadrach (1998) Trailer
One of the film’s major themes is the search for one’s long-lost innocence and, as with all journeys, destinies intersect. Paths diverge, leading to a variety of endings — both literally and metaphorically. While another theme is life lessons we all are destined to learn in time, such as the nature of death and its unavoidability, but also about life itself and the nature of human and God-made rules, as well as the distinction between the two.
One of the most impressive aspects of the film is its outstanding product design, which instantly takes the viewer into the world of the story via the use of both costumes and props. Even though the camera doesn’t draw much attention, I could not identify any faults worthy of inclusion in my evaluation.
While the narrative has some real chortle and some tear-jerking moments, there is nothing in the way of excitement, which is why most young viewers and those who watch films only for escapist pleasures may find the film to be a little dull.
88 min|Drama|23 Sep 1998
6.4Rating: 6.4 / 10 from 1,238 users
In 1935, ninety-nine-year-old former slave Shadrach asks to be buried on the soil where he was born to slavery, and that land is owned by the large Dabney family, consisting of Vernon, Trixie, and their seven children, and to bury...
Director:Susanna Styron Creator:William Styron, Susanna Styron, Bridget Terry Actors:Martin Sheen, John Franklin Sawyer, Scott Terra
A ninety-nine year old man, who was once a slave, returns to his former plantation to be buried there.
Two boys let their imaginations run wild in Luke Benward‘s 2021 short film Boys, but soon the fun and games come to an abrupt end.
The story juxtaposes innocence and guilt, which further accentuates the moral quandary that the film’s protagonists (and, by extension, the audience) find themselves in. Other short films have explored similar themes, such as Good Machine Gun Sound (2014) and Thomas (2013)– and it is the contemporary nature of the settings and characters that sets apart Luke Benward’s short. The musical score fits well, raising tension in the appropriate scenes.
Boys (2021) Trailer
Cameron Crovetti and August Maturo, who play the two boys in the short film, have previous experience in front of the camera and bring their roles to life realistically and powerfully. Excellent cinematography is another noteworthy aspect of the film since both camera positions and framing are performed flawlessly over the course of the narrative.
Even the simplest of acts may result in devastating consequences. That is one of the motifs in films that ties in nicely with the overall depiction of one’s loss of innocence.
Horror films have traditionally been seen as a genre made for girls but, more and more, we’re seeing that boys can enjoy them too. Boys will watch these films for the same reasons girls do; for the adrenaline rush and to be scared out of their wits. Boys are often seen as the heroes in horror movies, but they don’t always get to do the things girls do. They aren’t often given a chance to be vulnerable and scared, so this could be why some people say that boys don’t enjoy Coming-of-Age horror movies.
The Unique Flavor of Coming-of-Age Films with Male Leads
Coming-of-Age horror movies with boys as protagonists have a unique flavor that those with female protagonists do not. First, the Coming-of-Age horror movies with boys as protagonists are atypical. Most of them are about family and involve familial themes like secrets, violence and death. Those with girls as protagonists, on the other hand, typically have more domestic themes.
Second, these movies usually involve a protagonist who is bullied or tormented by their peers. This is not often seen in films about girls or films with female leads.
Third, they tend to center around the fear of being “alone in the world” and often take place in secluded places. The contrast between this feeling and the reality of their lives is what makes these movies so intriguing.
What sets these movies apart from other films is that they are more brutal than normal Coming-of-Age movies. They also have themes of masculinity and violence highlighted through scenes of bullying, physical abuse, and death.
Where do the Differences Lie?
Boys’ Coming-of-Age horror movies are different from those with girls because male protagonists are usually not allowed to show fear or vulnerability. In many cases, they have to save everyone else and fight back against the monster. And, while this can often make for a very entertaining movie, it also means that male viewers end up underrepresented in these films.
Men are more likely to show a physiological response to horror films than women. This is because when men are under stress, they produce more testosterone which makes them more prone to feelings of fear. Women, on the other hand, produce less testosterone and often take comfort in social bonds which make them feel safe.
Additionally, Coming-of-Age horror flicks with males as the main protagonist are often more violent, with intense emotional scenes. The characters in these films are often trying to deal with their own inner demons and be independent. They are usually more mature than their female counterparts, who have less depth to them.
Horror movies with boys as protagonists have a different Coming-of-Age storyline. They are more likely to involve violence and gore, and the story usually revolves around saving the girl. Boys in movies are often seen as “slobs” that need to be cleaned up by the woman. This is not true for girls in these movies, who are often depicted as being more grown-up than their male counterparts.
Why Boy-Theme Horror Films Work So Well
The first and most obvious reason why boy-theme horror films work is because of the target audience. Boys in particular are attracted to these types of genre films, so it is more than likely that they will also be attracted to the toys, clothing, comics, etc. that go along with them.
The second reason these films work is because they follow a formula that has been successful for decades now: the monster wants to kill a group of people and then return back into a deep pit or hole in the ground. These types of films are always popular at Halloween and it’s easy to see why considering that this is when children (young boys) want to dress up and pretend they’re fighting off scary creatures themselves.
The Ultimate Suggestion for Girl-Friendly Horror Films
The Descent (2006)
The Witch (2015)
It Follows (2014)
Let the Right One In (2008)
The Babadook (2014)
An American Haunting (2005)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
The Ultimate Suggestion for Boy-Friendly Horror Films
A Quiet Place (2018)
Black Hollow Cage (2017) Bloody Birthday (1981)
Boarding School (2018)
Child Eater (2016)
Child’s Play 1 and 2
Cooties (2014) Cub (2014)
Dark Skies (2013)
Deadly Intent (2016)
Devil Times Five (1974)
Dolly Dearest (1991)
Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972
Found (2012) Frailty (2001) Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Here Comes the Devil (2012)
Home Movie (2008)
Ice Cream Man (1995)
In a Glass Cage (1986) Joshua (2007)
Mom and Dad (2017) Parents (1989)
Summer of 84 (2018)
The Atoning (2017)
The Boogey Man (1980)
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
The Good Son (1993)
The Omen 1 and 2 The Other (1972)
The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972)
The Babadook (2014)
The Babysitter (2017)
The Believers (1987)
The Boy (2015)
The Children (2008)
The Girl Next Door (2007)
The Orphan (1979)
The Pit (1991)
The Reflecting Skin (1990)
The Shinning (1980)
The Witch (2015) The Witch in the Window (2018)
What the Peeper Saw (1972)
Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
TheSkyKid.com features articles and reviews of coming of age movies, music and books with a focus on adolescent development and on young people in the performing arts. Don't forget to follow us on social networks!