Chbosky stirs his story into an emotional whirlpool

The lives of average American misfits are never what they seem.
The lives of average American misfits are never what they seem.

NO matter what era adolescents face, being a teenager sometimes sucks. Not all the time if you have friends who 'get' you, but there are always bad days. However, many are in worse situations, finding themselves at the lowest of points because they don't have that particular support.

Teens at life's lowest point often arrive at that stage because of things like social awkwardness, or general repression from experiencing a traumatic event during childhood. Charlie's (Logan Lerman) issue with both hasn't worked in his favour before his transition from middle school to high school.

Not wanting to only make friends with awesome English teacher Mr Robinson (Paul Rudd), Charlie digs deep and approaches Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). To his surprise, Charlie's burgeoning friendship with the duo extends to their group of misfits.

It's not so different from the late 80s, early 90s era to now in that teenagers so desperately want to be different. They wish everyone had as good a taste in music as them, they've done a few things they may regret and in the end just want to feel free.

The freedom Charlie craves surrounds the guilt over the death of his aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey) and through this story he struggles.

Charlie faces the things most teenage boys do - crushes, unrequited love and self-uncertainty, and it's awkward as he tries to push past his naivety and develop through his adolescence.

Stephen Chbosky, writing and directing the adaptation of his 1999 novel, retains that awkwardness well. The script is exaggerated and full of curiosity for Charlie, Sam and Patrick as they try to figure out where they fit in within the food chains of school and life.

Chbosky weaves a tale about concerns for the future, homosexuality in a less accepting time and characters with more to them than meets the eye. It's not something we haven't seen before but definitely keeps its own wits about it.

Best appreciated by those knowledgeable of the likes of Dexy's Midnight Runners and David Bowie, the soundtrack is a large carrier for the story. It's an effective form of escape for Charlie and his friends, and provides a healthy dose of nostalgia for us watching.

Chbosky uses that nostalgia for lighter moments before daily life begins to weigh heavier on Charlie's shoulders. The film switches between Charlie's happier days and saddening flashbacks regarding his aunt, like mood swings, making the film increasingly sad.

Chbosky's supporting cast is smartly chosen in appealing to television fans with the likes of Kate Walsh (Private Practice) and Nina Dobrev (Vampire Diaries), and they all remain above high water to help deliver a story emotionally challenging and rewarding.

Miller and Watson are melodramatic as Patrick and Sam; Watson not yet losing the sly grin the world came to love in the Harry Potter films. Lerman plays a helplessly confused boy with integrity, Charlie doing all he can to just be a normal kid.

Chbosky's soft touch with the camerawork and his heartfelt story make the film one not so predictable; something to savour for the young (and young at heart) generation.

Rating: 4/5

Now screening at Reading Cinemas


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