Film Review: Age Out

Film Review Series by Lance Sinclair

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This week State Library of Queensland’s cinephile, Lance Sinclair, reviews Age Out, directed by A.J Edwards and starring Tye Sheridan, Imogen Poots and Caleb Landry Jones.

 

 

Image taken from film Age Out, directed by A. J. Edwards, streamed on Kanopy database.

AGE OUT

We’re in Waco, Texas and 18 year old Richie has just become an emancipated adult after being raised as a ward of the state. Bouncing between foster homes and correctional institutions has hardened him beyond his years, but a willingness to put his head down, work hard and make the most of what life gives him at least paints a hope of some kind of future. The gathering of demons, both internal and from without, will challenge and tempt Richie, leading to consequences both immediate and unimaginable. So begins the sophomore feature from director A.J Edwards, long-term collaborator of cinematic titan Terrence Malick and now without doubt a new voice to be reckoned with.

From its opening, this is a movie that invites us to take a moment and look at the world around us with a greater appreciation of its small miracles. The camera here is prowling, a constantly gliding point of view. It’s lens crawls through mansions, derelict buildings, canyons and labyrinthian freeways with the same sense of detached awe.  This an endless stage, demanding the same respect as the most lauded auditoriums, even in its emptiness.

Tye Sheridan has grown into one of the more interesting American actors working today, specializing in characters trapped by circumstance, from his debut in the outstanding Southern Gothic Mud to the bad dream road-trip of The Mountain, his presence suggests a blinking innocence confronting a larger, more complex world. It’s an energy used well in Age Out, even as we’re shown that Richie is a version of Sheridan with a darker capacity for action than we’ve previously seen.

The two primal forces that will challenge Richie in his new adult life come in the form of new friends Joan and the bizarrely named Swim. Swim- the devil on the shoulder, always appearing out of seemingly thin air to gently push him towards the worst possible decisions is played by Caleb Landy Jones with the trademark grotesque, chilling energy he’s bought to Heaven Knows What, Get Out and virtually everything he’s ever appeared in. The sequence in which a crazed Swim forces Richie to assist with the chaotic daylight robbery of a Motel is as gripping as any action scene from the last five years.  Joan (Imogen Poots, showing how good she can be when given a role worth digging into) is the potential catalyst for a life beyond simple survival, an entry into a more profound world that hangs now dangerously close to being within reach.

There are shadows in this film of earlier studies like The Outsiders, Over the Edge or River's Edge in its portrait of lost youth wandering the ghost towns of America’s fringes, and the life altering decisions thrust at them by circumstance. It’s a rich vein, and one this movie joins with both supreme confidence and non-sensationalist empathy.

Age Out is a wonder – a story that feels so stripped back and simplistic, clocking in at a tight 90 minutes, but containing multitudes. It’s a story that presents us with the best and worst of human behaviour, while deliberately putting aside the clear delineations of evil and the pointing of a reactionary judgmental finger in favour of an almost unfathomable sense of forgiveness and acceptance. A look at lives that make close to zero impact on the world around them, but who are given the kind of grace and focus that a movie crafted will skill and heart is able to elevate its subjects with. It also asks us how much we trust our own perceptions and assumptions, whether we can believe seemingly obvious truths or whether we’ll engage in moral gymnastics to comfort ourselves at the cost of truth. Cinema is a clockwork machine that can be tuned to affect its viewers- inducing awe, dread, infatuation or any number of sparks along the emotional spectrum. This is a film that fires off a totality of emotion so profound and understated that it comes to close to an unexpected tragedy or love appearing out of nowhere on a crisp, sunny day. It lingers for days, rattling around the soul and the mind, living beyond its immediate self as the best movies do.

Further Reading

  • Social Impact Film, Friday’s Child, Starring Tye Sheridan Debuts Nationwide on May 7 / Business Wire; New York [New York]06 May 2019 (article)

  • 'AGE OUT'; After foster care, it's a dicey world / Murray, Noel. Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif. 22 Nov 2019: E.6. (article)

  • Transformer / Goodyear, Dana. W; New York Vol. 47, Iss. 3,  (Jun 2018): 128 (article)

  • Awards honor film festival's best / Shanghai Daily; Shanghai, China; 25 June 2018 (article)

  • Nurturing Attachments : Supporting Children Who Are Fostered or Adopted / Golding, Kim S. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007 (ebook)

  • A.J. Edwards on ‘Age Out,’ Gus Van Sant’s Influence, Weyes Blood, and Impossible Forgiveness / Jordan Raup○, November 19, 2019 (open access article)

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