Three kids on the verge of adolescence struggle with life. Jacob's brother has been killed by another child in a horrific accident, and his family struggle with grief and a desire for vengeance. Leonard fights to turn around the dietary habits of his morbidly obese family, and Malee confuses her sexual awakening with a search for a father figure.
After a spell With Six Feet Under, Michael Cuesta returns to the subject of his 2001 debut, L.I.E. — the darker side of the wonder years. Here, the three leads are young, but the director has no qualms in having them play out unnerving situations; looking down the wrong end of a handgun or leaving the gas on are fair game as the trio find their way through an awkward age.
Dividing the narrative three ways increases the action and keeps things moving, but the end result is less believable than if we’d followed one in greater detail. The shaky camerawork irritates, but get past that and you’ll find genuinely touching scenes, and some real discoveries in the kids.
A great child performance is fortunate - three in one film is a blessing. The kids help get the film past its messy, low-budget look, aided by a strong ensemble of familiar adult faces.