Being a teenager is hard. We’ve all been through it and survived, coming out the other end hopefully a healthy and curious adult. For some though, it can be literal hell on Earth, with potentially deadly issues. This week, one such independent film opens that seeks to tackle it. It’s called And Then I Go, a drama that tackles some truly important things. There’s a fine line to walk between examination and exploitation, but this movie does it quite well. In fact, it’s one of the more surprising indies of 2018 so far. It really sneaks up on you and leaves its mark. Consider me impressed.
The movie is a character study of sorts, focused in on teenagers and how bullying/exclusion can lead to tragic results. This is the IMDb plot synopsis: “In the cruel world of junior high, Edwin suffers in a state of anxiety and alienation alongside his only friend, Flake. Misunderstood by their families and demoralized at school daily, their fury simmers quietly until an idea for vengeance offers them a terrifying release. Based on the acclaimed novel “Project X” by Jim Shepard, this unflinching look at adolescence explores how the powerful bonds of childhood friendship and search for belonging can become a matter of life or death.” We watch as Edwin (Arman Darbo) and Flake (Sawyer Barth) move closer and closer to the point of no return, all the while as the rest of the world can’t see. From the former’s parents Tim (Justin Long) and Janice (Melanie Lynskey), to their Principal Mr. Mosley (Tony Hale), the system fails. Tragedy almost has to ensue. Vincent Grashaw directs a screenplay by filmmaker in his own right Brett Haley and Jim Shepard, who wrote the novel upon which the film is based. Also in the cast here are Melonie Diaz, Carrie Preston, and more.
This film manages to be disturbing and effective without ever going over the top. In centering things on how the environment that is school for some kids makes for a toxic brew, it opts to avoid traditional cinematic “warning signs”. This isn’t about waiting to see a psycho snap. It’s much more about how someone at risk can be drawn towards an edge from which there’s no going back. It’s not easy material, but Grashaw, Haley, and Shepard navigate the terrain with confidence. In lesser hands, this could have been a crummy rip off of something like We Need to Talk About Kevin. Instead, it’s a work all its own.
The cast is a big reason why And Then I Go works, aside from the effectiveness with which the story is told. The adults make the most of their supporting roles, especially Long, who is realistically in the dark as a parent. Sawyer Barth and Arman Darbo are the true stars though, especially Darbo. This type of emotional work has you hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel. You never root for the moment you feel in your bones is somewhat inevitable. This isn’t a feel good movie at all, but it isn’t unnecessarily grim either. Credit to the cast and filmmakers for pulling that off.
Starting today, audiences can give a look to And Then I Go, which promises to stay with you long after the credits role. Though perhaps not as staggering as Elephant was about 15 years ago, this is a strong contemporary. Much like Dark Night took an interesting path in telling a tragic story last year, so too does this one here in 2018. Your best bet for finding this one may be On Demand at home, but it’s worth the effort. Once you see this movie, you’ll be hard pressed to forget it. At this juncture in the year, we have an indie worth banging the drum for…
Be sure to check out And Then I Go, opening in limited release and On Demand today!