Twelve and Holding
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Michael Cuesta
scr Anthony S Cipriano
with Conor Donovan, Jesse Camacho, Zoe Weizenbaum, Linus Roache, Annabella Sciorra, Jeremy Renner, Marcia DeBonis, Tom McGowan, Jayne Atkinson, Michael C Fuchs, Mark Linn-Baker, Tony Roberts
release US 19.May.06,
UK 10.Nov.06
05/US Fortissimo 1h35

Fourth of July: Donovan, Weizenbaum and Camacho

roache sciorra renner


Twelve and Holding As with his earlier film L.I.E., Cuesta takes a startlingly truthful view of pre-pubescent sexuality in this gripping drama examining the pains and frustrations--and also the hidden strengths--of youth.

Four 12-year-olds are inseparable over the summer: individualistic identical twins Jacob and Rudy (both played by Donovan), chubby Leonard (Camacho) and cheeky Malee (Weizenbaum). When Rudy dies in a terrible incident, the entire community is sent into a tailspin, while the kids react in unexpected ways. Jacob feels deep inadequacy, which his parents (Roache and Atkinson) inadvertently redirect. Leonard becomes obsessed fitness and health--his own and his mother's (DeBonis). And Malee's dawning womanhood takes the friendly Gus (Renner), one of her psychologist mother's (Sciorra) patients, by surprise.

Cuesta's approach is raw and unflinching; many scenes are difficult to watch, simply because he forces us to think about how we would react in the same situations. He accomplishes this by making the kids so bracingly realistic. These aren't sweet, fun-loving movie characters--they're intelligent, rough-talking and dangerous, while also being naive and vulnerable.

These amazing young actors carry the film completely, while the adult characters tend to lurk around the edges, not quite getting the gist of what's going on, but clearly understanding the truth these kids aren't old enough to grasp. It's a delicate balance, and there's not a weak-link performance in the film. The three kids are excellent. And extra credit goes to Renner for taking on such an tricky role with charm and a haunting sincerity.

While Cipriano's script provides a framework, it's Cuesta's direction that makes this film so unforgettable. It's relaxed and almost offhanded, with textured and edgy cinematography heightens the provocative themes. Scenes continually confront us in taboo-breaking ways--Malee's talent show rendition of Blue Oyster Cult's Burn for You, Jacob's creepy friendship with his nemesis (Fuchs), the introduction of a gun into the narrative. Even as the plot gets overwrought, it's still acknowledging kids' realities that most films ignore. So when one of the parents says, "Someday, when you grow up, you'll understand," it sounds both patronising and ignorant.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 17.Aug.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Twelve and Holding little fish, uk: 5/5 "This movie is amazing! It is so original. Most other films with children in are for children and so it is very rare to come across such an amazing film that highlights all the traumas, difficulties, pressure and fights that all young children experience with their own parents and peers. It is the best movie ever! Please, please you must see this movie!" (11.Sep.06)

Vince, Vancouver, Canada: 4.5/5 "Captivating and brave, exploring uncomfortable angles of coming of age. The acting is quite superb throughout, especially the children. Well worth watching. The film makers could have made 2 maybe even 3 films out of the material they covered, and maybe that's its only fault: that there were just too many narratives to properly deal with their conclusions. But I didn't mind that some were left open-ended. It spoke to the idea that the main characters are all still so young, with most of their lives ahead. It wasn't for us to know what life next had in store for them." (6.Feb.14)

© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall