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Saturday, November 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 28.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Wisconsin Film Festival 2013: Only the Young gets remarkably close to three California teens
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The real story is the ever-changing relationships among the main characters.

Only the Young plays like an ode to teenage uncertainty. In their documentary at the Wisconsin Film Festival, directors Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet chronicle the lives of three teenagers in Southern California. Kevin and Garrison, best friends, spend their time skateboarding and wandering around the dilapidated city of Santa Clarita. Skye, Garrison's sort-of-girlfriend, has lived with her grandfather ever since her heroin-addicted mother's disappearance.

The film follows no linear path. Instead, it shows fragments from each subject's life. Kevin competes in a skateboarding tournament. Garrison buys a car. Skye's father is released from prison. The real story, however, is the ever-changing relationships among the three main characters. We see Skye and Garrison go through many stages, always somewhere between friends and dating. The strength of Kevin and Garrison's bond is tested as they try to support each other in moments of need.

A first glance, the subjects seem unremarkable. Like other teenagers, they struggle with love, authority, and the anxieties associated with growing up. What makes the movie distinctive, though, is how close we get to these kids. Mims and Tippet capture stunningly intimate moments, whether it's Kevin showing his friends the razor cuts on his arms or Skye weeping over the impending loss of her home. Indeed, Skye is the heart of the movie, with her wit and keen perceptions. In her vulnerable moments, it's impossible not to see a glimmer of your own teenage years.

Only the Young also distinguishes itself with poetic imagery. The skateboarding, in particular, is gorgeously rendered. Garrison and Kevin hurtle through the environments like rag dolls, falling from high places and smashing into walls, yet never seeming worse for wear.

The movie does feel somewhat inconsequential. Nothing much happens except time slowly passing. Then again, high school is like that sometimes, right? The directors combine interesting subjects with beautiful cinematography to create a truly absorbing experience.

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