First time director Jenny Grage follows a group of Brooklyn teenagers over a three-year span, building along a portrait of youth today that is relevant and easily relatable. The film follows the fortunes of girls of different backgrounds going through the pains of late teenagehood together, trying to figure out their place in the world as it goes along.
The film’s structure is all but loose, with the passage of time being denoted by changes of hairstyles and the obvious growing up that can be seen in their features as they go from childlike to adult. It’s not only their faces that change, however: their attitudes towards life, family and love grow exponentially over the 79 minutes that comprise the film, creating a natural ark that saves the film from being too messy for its own good.
Central to the story are Lena and Ginger, whose childhood friendship is put to test as their opinions of the world get developed and crystallised, sometimes to the detriment of their relationship. Ginger is a typical lost teenager, having dropped out of college and too recalcitrant to actually chase the dreams she originally set her mind on. She comes from a privileged family, a luxury that isn’t afforded to Lena, whose divorced parents seem to be continuously on the edge of a cliff of doom. Lena grows up fast, and is not given the choice of musing over what to do next – she must act fast if she is to survive. Their different outlooks on young life slowly places them apart, and although this is never said in so many words, the audience can feel the rift widen as each chooses their own paths.
The film’s casting is perfect: aside from the frenemies cited above, it boasts of a number of archetypes that make the film all the more real and palpable. There’s Ginger’s younger sister Dusty, always in the shadows of her more effervescent sister; there’s sweet Olivia, who discovers her homosexuality as she enters the adult world of college, and her first love to boot; there’s Ivy, the cool girl everyone wants to be; and there’s appropriately named Sage, a privileged black girl who must still confront the ideas people have of her based on her skin colour, no matter her actual background.
Grage chose wisely whom to film, and thank goodness she did, because the camerawork is too frantic, too out of focus to capture the attention. This, however, the girls do with a revenge, bringing you into their tumultuous world until you cannot but feel empathy for their respective predicaments.