Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Younger Adults

The first Kickstarter I ever participated in was for a movie called "Older Children." I'd heard about it on Facebook, kicked in some money, and then promptly forgot about it. So it was a pleasant surprise when Duncan Riddell, the writer and director, emailed recently to announce that the movie had been finished and DVDs would be sent out shortly.

I got to watch it a few nights ago, and was very impressed. Older Children is a low-key film, filled with conversations between friends and acquaintances that illuminate what I think are the film's two main themes: how relationships evolve as we grow older, and what it means to become an adult in the 21st century. The characters are all in their mid-20's, and most of the main ones occupy that strange middle ground that many young adults hold: living on their own, but still financially reliant on their parents; comfortable in relationships, but wary of marriage; seeking maturity but often enmeshed in drama.

While my own situation is a bit different from that of these characters, the core question of maturity is something that I think about a lot. To be blunt: I still don't really "feel" like an adult, despite my age. That isn't a complaint - I love my life, and I love what I get to do and the advantages of my age and my status - but it blows my mind whenever I think that, when my dad was my age, he had a six-year-old kid. I do think that the shift towards later marriages has had a very significant impact on my generation, both on a macro level (more career-oriented women in the workforce) and on a personal level (skipping one of the traditional thresholds into adulthood, along with going to war). That's precisely the sort of thing that the characters in Older Children wonder about: some people get married, and others are both happy and upset by those changes; old friends who have already been married and have kids seem to exist in a different world from the urban singles at the core of the movie.

I'm not totally sure exactly how much we're meant to feel sympathetic towards these people. There's certainly a vein of satire in here - the movie opens with a young woman talking with a therapist, who was hired by her mom, which is stranger the more you think about it. And the problems the characters face are clearly first-world problems: they worry about not reaching self-actualization, not about becoming homeless. Still, I feel like the film sees these characters with affection, subtly calling out the goofiness of their situations while acknowledging the way they feel.

So, yeah, the theme and the acting are all really cool. (Full disclosure: my brother has a small speaking role in the movie. It was awesome to see him on-screen.) The score was very cool as well. In keeping with the tone of the movie, it's relatively understated, but quite pretty, with piano taking you along from scene to scene and establishing the mood. The cinematography was good throughout, and a few shots were absolutely gorgeous. I particularly liked the lighting of actors' faces in the indoor bar scenes, and a scene shot at a beach was wonderful as well.

I was surprised to find myself feeling homesick for Chicago while watching this. This isn't really a movie "about" Chicago, and I think it could have been set anywhere, but it happened to be in Chicago, and I think the director made a really good choice by making it feel rooted in a particular place. Details like characters riding the El, or seeing Metra trains roll by, or visiting the lakeshore, or chilling in the park after a run while looking at the skyline… it doesn't only look good, but does more than words could to establish the community that these people live and participate in. I think there's a good reason why so many young people with our backgrounds choose to live in cities: while we may not have the close ties of a nuclear family, we can become part of a tapestry of city life.

After finishing the movie, it finally struck me that I'm probably one of the first people to have watched this movie. That's pretty cool! Yet another thing that's awesome about Kickstarter, I suppose. Anyways: it'll be hitting the festival circuit soon, starting with a showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center in early November. If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend checking it out!

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