dir Nathan Adloff
scr Nathan Adloff, Justin DM Palmer
prd Lisa Black, Ash Christian, Anne Clements, Stephen Israel, Devon Schneider
with Tim Boardman, Molly Shannon, Missi Pyle, Paul Reiser, Stephen Root, Malcolm Gets, Ethan Phillips, Annie Golden, Romy Rosemont, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Monika Casey, Yeardley Smith
release US 9.Jun.17, UK 23.Jul.18
16/US 1h27
Take your shot: Boardman and Pyle

shannon reiser root
iris prize fest
flare film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Miles Based on a true story, this charming comedy-drama set in small-town America uses a collection of cleverly written and played characters to explore why it's sometimes so important to break out of the box. It's smart and warm, which makes it both funny and engaging, and filmmaker Nathan Adloff proves that he's also not afraid to generate some honest, dark resonance as well.

In rural 1999 Illinois, 17-year-old Miles (Boardman) is trying to get through his senior year before he can flee to Chicago to start his life. When his father (Root) dies, he and his mother Pam (Shannon) can barely afford to live, let alone pay for university. Needing a volleyball scholarship, he tries out for Coach Leslie (Pyle), even though his school only has a girls' team. Meanwhile, Pam meets Lloyd (Reiser) in grief counselling, and things are going well until she realises that he's the school superintendent who will need to rule on Miles' eligibility.

Most intriguing is the fact that Miles being gay has nothing to do with the story. It's detail that merely adds texture to the central ideas, most notably fuelling Miles' desperation to escape to the Windy City, where he will no longer be the only gay in the village. Cleverly, Adloff takes the volleyball story and runs with it, making this the main issue in Miles' life, as he fights for the right to pursue his dreams while surrounded by people who want him to pursue theirs.

The cast brings plenty of charm to the characters. Boardman is a likeable lead, with just the right sense of determination and the edge to not give up without a fight. His partner in crime is Pyle's even more vocal coach, who decides to do the right thing whatever the fallout. Shannon's character has the biggest story arc as a woman who resists taking on the system, then must grapple with her conscience when her budding romantic life conflicts with her son's future.

Where all of this goes isn't hugely revolutionary. Adloff has adapted elements of his own life into this screenplay, and he thankfully refuses to turn it into some sort of rah-rah tale of sporting triumph. Instead, he focusses on the relationships, mainly the one between a single mother and her independent-minded son. This makes the film remarkably resonant, elevating an everyday struggle into something worth celebrating.

cert 12 themes, language, sexuality 23.Mar.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall