Written and Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring: Elias McConnell, Alex Frost, Eric Deulen
It’s just another ordinary day at a high school in middle America. The students are all going about the business of being teenagers. As the social drama and high school hierarchy run their course, there is something coming. In a short period of time, the lives of the students will be changed forever by an act of violence and pure evil.
Gus Van Sant (Milk) is someone I knew mainly from the great work he did on Good Will Hunting. He’s had a varied career with a lot of success in several genres. This 2003 film put his writing and directing skills together with great success. With a cast made up of mainly unknown faces, he recreated the social turmoil of high school with great skill.
The success of this film comes from the many points of view the story is told from. Events both shared and unique cross paths through the eyes of students from many different segments of the social order. The dynamics of this order play nicely into the unanswered questions that come and go throughout the film. Van Sant does a great job personalizing the entire student body by letting us into the lives of just a few.
Visually, this camera seems to move throughout the school with ease. Despite the change in styles and fads, the setting feels very relevant to our day. The camera work is wonderfully done, and pairs nicely with great lighting. All of these technical aspects are part of a very powerful movie.
The acting in this film is really wonderful. The students portrayed all feel natural to the environment. Seeing the people move about the school with familiarity was important to making this come alive. Despite the lack of big names or familiar faces, this is a well-acted film.
This isn’t going to be for everyone. The film deals with a crisis that still rages in America with the continual instances of school shootings. Gus Van Sant took on this emotionally charged subject with a fearlessness that I think was necessary to the success of the movie. He doesn’t hold back when depicting the horror of such an event. Much like a school shooting, this film comes out of nowhere. If you’ve seen We Need to Talk About Kevin you might find this film equally successful in working with such tough subject matter. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Running Time: 81 Minutes