Movie: Movies made by adults rarely get true teenage angst right, in my opinion, because said adults are so far removed from their youth that any message they might've had in their minds were long glossed over with the ravages of time. It doesn't matter how many minor aspects of youth they seemingly get right (often enough only by relying on stereotypes that are so generic as to be firmly implanted as collective "truths" that really aren't), the overall message is usually formed by committee so as to address only the lowest common denominator audience in a quest for profit. On the other hand, you'll get independent filmmakers that address such a narrow audience that they become very obscure and difficult to appreciate. Such was my opinion of a little "slice of life" film by director/writer Dani Minnick, Falling Like This.
The movie centered on a couple of teenagers, Boyd (Brian Vaughan), and Katie (Megan Wilson). Boyd starts off the movie as a juvenile delinquent who steals cars for the kick, and acts like a tough guy despite having a pretty-boy face. A rebel without a clue, Boyd is on a doomed path from the beginning as his youthful charm starts to wear thin on the authorities that deal with him on a frequent basis. Katie, on the other hand, is just a dopey girl who falls for the bad-boy in an effort to give her life meaning. As Boyd gets into deeper and deeper trouble, her path seems set on self destruction too and the romantic aspects of her relationship with Boyd soon compare poorly to the prospect of her own failed life.
The movie has some interesting themes to observe. The Romeo & Juliet aspect of a doomed relationship is present in spades. After all, Boyd isn't "really" hurting anyone, yes? That comes to an end when his exploits start to endanger those around him, making him less attractive to the pack he runs with, including Katie. The moth-to-a-flame attraction women have to dangerous men is something we can all probably relate to (be it a friend or family member; such is the case with director Dani Minnick, who's sister fell for such a loser). We all know that is she doesn't grow away from him soon, she'll end up another casualty of his antics. The tension of her awakening to his true nature is slow and steady which gave the movie more depth than I think most critics caught when it played in film festivals originally.
The down side, for me at least, was how there was no story to speak of. The whole movie made me feel like a fly on the wall, a voyeur if you will, to a pack of rowdy youth that were in need of putting down. I live in an urban area with plenty of kids similar to the ones shown here and while I'd be lying if I said I "knew" them well enough to write a play and direct a movie about them, I think the director did a decent job of capturing certain aspects of their behavior. Had she collaborated with some of them when writing the movie, she may have really struck a chord and made a major hit (at least in terms of an indie movie).
So, if you're looking for a somewhat obscure independent movie that looks at a youthful relationship doomed to failure with a cast of mostly weak actors (though they looked the part), you'll definitely want to Rent It or maybe grab a copy for your collection. It's not a classic but it shows a lot of promise on the part of Ms. Minnick in terms of showing a slice of life of a couple of young losers.
Picture: The picture was presented in non-anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 color. The picture was grainy and had a lot of video noise but I didn't see a lot of compression artifacts and the fleshtones were pretty accurate (at least in the daylight scenes). The camera was a bit shaky due to the method used (handheld camera techniques were used to create a sense of intimacy) and whether you hate this style (like I do) or love it (as an attempt to get away from polished Hollywood flicks) will make a big difference in how much you like the movie.
Sound: The audio was presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital stereo but aside from some basic separation, it didn't appear to make the best use of the format. The vocals were often a bit hollow, which lent an air of authenticity to the low budget nature of the movie. The music was provided by Ani Difranco and was really solid to me (I'm a fan so weigh that in on my comments).
Extras: There was a director's commentary with Dani Minnick and cameraman/editor Alessandro Zezza that was more interesting than the movie itself. The two discussed a lot of technical aspects of getting the movie made with regard to the technical limitations more than anything else. Their anecdotes may be worth listening to if you're an aspiring filmmaker too. There was also a trailer and a double-sided DVD cover but that's it.
Final Thoughts: If you want a plot, great acting, or highly advanced technical values, you'll want nothing to do with this movie. If you're looking for an alternative to the glossy ending movies you see from Hollywood, you really should give it a look. Ani Difranco's soundtrack was pretty interesting too; she's sadly under appreciated these days and her work here stood out. As long as you aren't expecting a movie made with a big budget, you will likely find something to enjoy here.