Mean Creek
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Jacob Aaron Estes
with Rory Culkin, Trevor Morgan, Scott Mechlowicz, Ryan Kelley, Josh Peck, Carly Schroeder, Brandon Williams, Heath Lourwood, JW Crawford, Michael Fisher-Welsh, Raissa Fleming, Kaz Garas
release US 20.Aug.04,
UK 29.Apr.05
04/US 1h27

Without a paddle: Mechlowicz

culkin morgan kelley

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The emotional tension in this film reaches nearly unbearable levels, and for the most part it's so bracingly honest that it takes our breath away. This is an astute examination of youth culture that blows away Hollywood's pathetic attempts to get into the mind of a teen.

When Sam (Culkin) tells his big brother Rocky (Morgan) who's been beating him up at school, he hasn't a clue what he's setting in motion. The bully is George (Peck), an arrogant fat kid who beats up just about everyone. So Rocky and his buddies--tough-guy Marty (Mechlowicz) and sensitive soul Clyde (Kelley)--decide to help Sam out. And with Sam's new girlfriend Millie (Schroeder) they lure George out for a day on a remote Oregon river. A cruel practical joke is the idea, but of course it doesn't go as planned.

Estes directs with a refreshing rawness--from gorgeous rural locations to the authentic youthful faces. The way they behave toward each other truthfully captures the fragile interplay between adolescents at both ends of puberty--the 13-year-olds' wide-eyed exploration, the 18-year-olds' know-it-all aggression. In the middle is George, both a loathsome thug and a pathetic kid trying far too hard to be liked. The cast is so good at creating these characters on screen that we believe every minute of it.

I won't say what that is, but the characters do one thing no intelligent person would ever do. But people do it in the movies all the time (at least the script makes up for this lapse later). There's one other false note in the overwrought moralising, but Estes gets everything else just right--the cinematography and editing feel free-form and yet they're far too astute to be accidental. The growing sense of dread is mind-boggling, especially as it reaches its peak during a game of Truth or Dare. There's a culture of machismo among the boys that's seriously ugly (and scarily true to life), in which any weakness is considered "gay" or "girly" and peer pressure is brutally used to control each other. It's in the characters' reactions to each other that this film is both telling and vitally important.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Nov.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Mean Creek dan12, net: 4.5/5 "great film. very moving, especially at the end." (20.Apr.05)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall