My personal London Film Festival experience gets off to a promising start with this endearing film from director Bouli Lanners. In the grand tradition of lazy journalistic shorthand one might say this is Stand by Me meets Winter’s Bone. While the coming-of-age aspect lacks that of Rob Reiner’s 1986 film, it could teach Winter’s Bone a thing or two about making hillbilly gangsters scary.
For reasons unknown, 15-year-old Seth and 13-year-old Zak are abandoned by their mother. Left to fend for themselves at home, they are joined by their friend Danny. Systematically beaten by his psychotic older brother he is glad to get away. In the absence of adult supervision the boys roam the countryside, smoking weed and getting drunk. The situation becomes increasingly serious as they run out of money and food. A solution to their problems involves a local drug dealer. Then things turn even worse.
The story is a little slight and I’m not sure what it all means in the end. The director seemed to, ultimately, celebrate their “freedom” but I couldn’t help feeling practical, adult concerns over the boys’ welfare. With no parents, no home and no education what could possibly go right? The film is warm, funny and gentle but also sporadically nasty. It captures the anarchic bent of teenage boys. Without any grown-ups around chaos, unsurprisingly, reigns. (As a result they live in squalor.)
As civilisation progresses steadily into the 21st century it is a sobering reminder that there are still many in the world quite willing to neglect, abuse or exploit those who are weaker and more helpless than themselves - namely kids.