Three coming-of-age movies that will change your life

A dramatic title – but fittingly so. The coming-of-age film hold’s so much resonance. In one form or another, a coming-of-age movie can reaffirm your lust for life, and your want for adventure. They take you back to a time when the world felt as though it was at your fingertips, and it hits you right in the feels when necessary. For this, we will call this kind of film a genre – a genre that holds a whole lot of power, intelligence and an aura of total cool. Everybody loves a bit of cool, right? There are tonnes of coming-of-age dramas, comedies and so on but this post is dedicated to just three. Beyond Clueless, a documentary that will count down and celebrate this genre has had its release, and for a more varied look into this form of cinema hit it up. For now, join me in remembering three of the best that take you back to your youth and inspire you to seek out all you wish to achieve in your life. Lets go. Quick note: Rather than a count down of 1-3, the films featured are being appreciated in equal measure, for they all have their merits and stand out as some of the best we’ve seen.

Almost Famous

the cast of almost famous

the cast of almost famous

Directed by Cameron Crowe, a director celebrated for his authentic (however eccentric that may be) look at life, and his inspiring authorial work on an array of fantastic features. Released in 2001 and starring Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Patrick Fugit and narrator of Beyond Clueless, Fairuza Balk, Crowe’s film explores life on the road as Fugit’s William embarks on a tour with Crudup’s band Stillwater. This is rock N’ roll storytelling at its very best, with a killer soundtrack to match. Crowe successfully manages to avoid band-movie cliches and instead delivers a piece of enigmatic cinema full of realistic youthful moments as played out by Fugit. William‘s naivety, genuine passion for music and want for adventure are all characteristics that help make him one of the most loveable protagonists on film and his adolescent wisdom is portrayed rather wonderfully. Lost at sea seems an appropriate metaphor, for 15 year old William is in over his head in a world dominated by sex, drugs, booze, rivalry and hella-cool surroundings including the legendary ‘Riot House’ on Sunset. You’ll want to be transported back to the 1970’s (whether or not you grew up in this decade) and Crowe’s film will change your view on life. Now a cult picture, Almost Famous is a near-perfect portrayal of life on the road – with all of the highs and lows that come along with it.


shailene woodley and miles teller in the spectacular now

The Spectacular Now

Recently reviewed with a gleaming five stars (if I awarded stars, anyway) The Spectacular Now is possibly the most realistic portrayal of a teenage relationship ever seen on screen. Painfully under-appreciated in the mainstream world, but praised with high recognition from critics and the festival circuit, James Pondsolt’s film is a heart-wrenching depiction of the difficulty of growing up and accepting responsibility. Interestingly, Pondsolt concentrates on Miles Teller’s Sutter‘s lack of enthusiasm to move on to higher education, for he loves the here and now at highschool. Popular amongst students, and with a charismatic charm that is truly infectious, Sutter embodies the woes, worries and excitement that comes with being 17 and in love. Shaileene Woodley provides support in the way of smart and loving Aimee who will only see the best in those around her. The pair are an absolute treat to watch together and Pondsolt’s direction of their un-dramatized relationship is a genre defining package. Come the end the tears will flow, and come the days after, you will still be recalling what you watched and how it made you feel. The Spectacular Now is independent cinema at its best and truly powerful that brings a simple, yet effective, spin to the coming-of-age formula.

logan lermann, emma watson and ezra miller in the perks of being a wallflower

logan lermann, emma watson and ezra miller in the perks of being a wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chobsky’s film, which he adapted from his own novel, is a stab right in the heart. Don’t worry – in a good way. Exploring the domestic issues of being a teenager, Chobsky creates a whimsical tale of first loves, abuse, suicide, mental health, and homophobia in 1990’s suburban America. A heavy watch in many aspects, what we are left with is a film of great depth and emotion. Logan Lermanm, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller star as friends Charlie, Sam and Patrick who navigate the difficulty that comes with being ‘different’ in an environment which hardly allows it.¬†Charlie‘s innocent narration of the events unfolding around him are perfectly scripted, and easily relatable, for he is at an age where he is open to new, and exciting (albeit slightly dangerous) thing’s that we all, at one point, felt compelled to try. Lermann’s performance is stellar and Charlie is epitomized in some way or another as all of us. A poignant look at adolescence, a time where we believe life is infinite, and we are unstoppable – really rather lovely.

The Spectacular Now, review

Often you will stumble upon a film, watch the trailer and think ‘Yeah, let’s give that a go, it looks decent.‘ Only occasionally will that stumbled upon piece of cinema be a game-changer. A think about your life feature that has you in tears, for reasons beyond what you have just seen on screen. Said film, in this case, and as the title indicates is The Spectacular Now. Released in 2013 and shot on a humble budget of $2.5 million, James Ponsoldt’s film hits you straight in the feels. Those feels, are real. The power of Miles Teller as eighteen year old Sutter Keely is almost indescribable and his transition from adolescence to adulthood is incredibly poignant. Shailene Woodley, while not as central to the narrative as one might think is just a great force and wonderfully likeable as Aimee Finecky¬†who has a glorious lust for life and is adamant to see only the good in Sutter.

Firstly, Ponsoldt directs Woodley and Teller with such a loving eye, but one that never enters cliched romantic-drama territory. This story feels one hundred percent real, what you are watching is not a glorified over-exaggeration of made up relationships¬† but a fictional portrayal of a relatable partnership. Intimate scenes are not covered up by a non-diegetic acoustic soundtrack, refreshingly they focus on the event unfolding and viewers will be transported back to a time when they felt just like that. The romantic element never takes over from what is at the centre here – Sutter‘s reluctance to graduate high school entwined with the surreal image he carries of his absent Father and obvious commitment issues. Oh, and the underlying drinking habit which the audience are reminded of in almost every scene. Sutter comes with baggage (which is initially hidden), but we can deal with that. What unwinds in the 95 minutes is a story of revelations, a little heartache, and a look into this teenagers life who – come the end – is no longer just a character in a film.

promotional poster for the spectacular now

promotional poster for the spectacular now

Teller narrates the film at appropriate intervals and Ponsoldt gives us a swiftly edited, genuinely funny opening scene which paints a clear picture of the situation we are going into. Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber the screenplay is written with enough quirk to comfortably fit within an indie production but screams out with intelligence and sharp wit which is often missed in contemporary cinema. There are so many positives to this inspiring feature, which will genuinely have an impact on you, but to truly understand why this is possibly one of the best films you will ever see – you just have to sit your bum down and watch for yourself. Rather magnificently, The Spectacular Now will hold different meanings for each individual viewing, and that power is something to be applauded.

A domestic story (to a certain extent at least), Ponsoldt’s film captures the wonderment and difficulties of growing up. A beautifully told story that deserves to be watched time and again. Damn near perfect.