Turbulent Times: 25 Coming Age Movies

29 mins read

Léolo (1992)

Director: Jean-Claude Lauzon

(Alliance Films)

Leo submerses himself within the extremes of his young imagination. A world where fantasy mixes with sexual awakening and confusion. But, as he grows, those around him treat him as a child with little understanding of life. His family indulging their fantasies, oblivious to his needs.

Offering us a challenging and complex portrayal of mental health and teen escapism, Leolo dwells in the realms of dysfunctional family life. Its narrative never seeking to sway the audience on the key messages at its heart. In effect allowing the viewer’s freedom to build their own views on the coming of age journey at its core. While equally creating a dream-like structure that demonstrates the inner thoughts of a boy on the verge of puberty.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

L.I.E (2001)

Director: Michael Cuesta

Michael Cuesta’s 2001 film is nothing short of a tour de force in bravery and straightforward storytelling. Its stunning exploration of gender, sexuality and isolation in adolescence, creating a film that packs a mighty punch. With a direct and honest portrayal of the vulnerability and desires of youth. Controversial from start to finish with its nuanced exploration of adult grooming, control and belonging. L.I.E is designed to stay with you long after the credits roll. Highlighting not just the vulnerability inherent in young people as they explore their sexual orientation. But also, the realities of the control mechanisms that exist when parental support and friendship are absent.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

Director: Todd Solondz

Todd Solondz’ debut film takes the classic high school movie and blends it with a rare reality in the genre. Not only facing the isolation of adolescence head-on but also unmasking the bullying and rejection many children face in school. Consequently delivering us the stark reality of young people’s ability to alienate and divide each other.

Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) is an outcast within her school environment. Both her looks and awkward personality making her invisible within a community of instant judgement and appraisal. Here, Todd Solondz expertly weaves the grim realities of school life with the strength of those alienated. Ensuring his film never falls into abject negativity but embraces satirical comedy/drama. In doing so, he reminds us of the realities of school life. His movie emphasising the awkwardness, volatility, and strength inherent in young people.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Boyhood (2014)

Director: Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater takes us on a genuinely unique coming of age journey with Boyhood. Simultaneously, reflecting the journey to adulthood through real personal change as we follow Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke). Filmed over 13 years, Boyhood is not only one of the most detailed and exquisite portrayals of the journey to adulthood ever seen on film. But also a glorious technical achievement in filmmaking. Boyhood is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve, showing the joy, fear and emotion of coming of age in a way few films before or after have managed to achieve.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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