Music festivals have become massively popular over the last decade or so, and this holds true in countries around the world. In fact, SXSW is well-known for its huge music showcases. With such a large number of people within one area, meeting new people and experiencing new adventures is inevitable. However, people of all ages attend, and sometimes the younger attendees aren't entirely prepared for the large crowds that form in front of each stage. Writer/director Yvonne Kerékgyártó explores this coming-of-age story with the backdrop of a music festival, which proves to be quite fitting.
Best friends Betty (Luca Pusztai) and V (Ágnes Barta) are sixteen year old girls with the desire for independence. With completely different perspectives, they experience the music festival in varying degrees, although it proves to show them the importance of their friendship. They attempt to sell marijuana at the festival, which is ultimately a lot more trouble than they imagined it would be.
Betty and V are much like any typical teenager in the way that they want independence. They're tired of living under their parents' control, and doing what's expected of them. Attending this music festival proves to be a clear act of defiance, as Betty isn't entirely honest about the trip that she's embarking upon. Her relationship with her father is clearly established in the opening scene, as she's criticized based on her habit of biting her nails and the appearance of her hair. Betty greatly lacks self-confidence, which is shown through her nail-biting and future encounters with people at the music festival. Meanwhile, V has an abundance of self-esteem, and constantly flaunts it in front of nearby men. This ultimately creates a rift between the two adolescents, as V flirts with male attendees and Betty attempts to sell the weed that they've been tasked to sell. Having never done it before, Betty ends up in an insanely awkward situation, putting her on the radar of the security guards of the festival. What should have been an exciting experience has transformed into a journey that they will never forget.
The film really becomes interesting when the two girls split during the festival, and face their own experiences. This is when they are truly forced to face their own personal demons by themselves. Betty's lack of confidence in herself and V's incredibly high self-esteem truly come into the light when they are alone. Despite having a disagreement, this is a film about growing up individually and with those around us. We are ultimately shaped by those that we decide to spend our time with. This is a roller coaster of a journey for both girls, although there is a great amount of character development that occurs as a result of these ups and downs. The high energy of the music festival contrasts well with the feature's more subtle character elements. Despite the loud nature of the music, there is a quiet and subtle story being told underneath it all. The pacing is incredibly smooth, and the narrative is told in a way that is both fresh and entertaining.
Free Entry has some truly breathtaking moments that feel incredibly relevant to modern times, although it simply feels too short. By the time that the film comes to a conclusion, it's clear that we haven't had the chance to spend enough time with Betty and V to truly care for them. While some may be able to relate to elements of the characters, this is a coming-of-age story that doesn't come across as being very personal. With a running time of only 70 minutes, Free Entry feels closer to a short than it does a full-length feature. It's a glimpse within these teenagers' experience at a music festival that will test the strength of their friendship, but it lacks an impact. Perhaps with more material, this could have been a tremendous coming-of-age story. However, it ultimately feels as if more than a few pieces of the puzzle are missing. Even so, this is still a journey that is well-worth experiencing.
This may be writer/director Yvonne Kerékgyartó's first time in the director's chair for a full-length feature, but she manages to deliver quite the experience with the visual design. Free Entry was shot at a real music festival, allowing for the insanely high amount of energy to come forth naturally. She utilizes a modern and vibrant color palette that simply feels infectious. The music played at the festival allows the audience to become a part of the atmosphere. There will be inevitable comparisons to some of the visual elements found in Spring Breakers, but Free Entry is quite a bit more polished. It experiments with a dreamlike reality that fits the environment so incredibly well.
If nothing else, Free Entry is an impressive feature debut from writer/director Yvonne Kerékgyártó. This is a captivating journey of today's youth in relation to the music festival culture. While its 70-minute running time is certainly a bit too short, this is still an engaging adventure with a wildly energetic visual environment. More time with Betty and V would have allowed for a more impactful coming-of-age story, although this glimpse into the lives of these two best friends is certainly worth the trip. Free Entry is an exceptionally fresh look at a new generation within the confines of a music festival. Recommended.
Free Entry played at SXSW Film Festival 2015 on March 14th, March 16th, and March 19th.