Wasted on the Young

Wasted on the Young

(MA) Alex Russell, Oliver Ackland, Adelaide Clemens

Director Ben Lucas has captured on film something every parent should fear: the rampant abuse of social media among young people.

Set in the social hierarchy and clique-driven landscape of a private high school, alpha-male Zack (Alex Russell) and his geeky step-brother Darren (Oliver Ackland) occupy opposite ends of the school pecking order.

Bullied by the cool kids, Darren finds himself forced to act when his tormentors go too far by drugging and sexually assaulting his best friend Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens), who after being left for dead in the middle of nowhere suddenly makes a surprise return to school that sets off a chain reaction of events.

As accusations fly across all forms of social media about just who is responsible, Xandrie’s world begins to implode. It seems the alpha males have once again got away with it. And Darren, who feels guilty that he was unable to stop his brother, reaches out to Xandrie even as they are at the mercy of the opinions, texts and taunts of their classmates.

Their trial by social media has begun.

Lucas has captured the zeitgeist well in his debut feature, as the film is littered with teenager’s reliance upon and utter faith in current forms of communication — primarily texting, online social networks and camera-phone technology.

Adults are conspicuously absent from this movie — no parents, teachers or police appear to modify the behaviour of the protagonists, who must live by their own morally ambiguous rules. This serves as part narrative conceit, part cautionary tale.

Almost by default the film has much to say: Where are the adults to moderate this behaviour? How can this cyber bullying and lack of self reflection be left to go unchecked? Should young adults be allowed navigate the vapid moral landscape of online social networks?

This is not the first film to be made about disaffected teens, but it is one of the first to detail just how horribly out of control a situation can get in the light of ever-present communication devices.

The three leads are excellent. Actor Adelaide Clemens is one of the films best assets (and her striking likeness to Michelle Williams is uncanny). Russell and Ackland’s characters are less defined but still effective as mismatched lads forced together by their familial situation.

A cleverly assembled pastiche of wealthy, wired teenagers equipped with communication tools of every persuasion prove the old school rules still apply.

Lucas cleverly slips between the real and illusory dangers of his protagonists. In one visceral scene, Xandrie and Darren are involved in an imaginary school shooting. Here, the footage is degraded into pixels and digital remnants, which further emphasises the theme of technology as a driving force in their lives.

Fast cutting, special effects and slick production values belie the films micro budget but bode well for first-time director. The fresh-faced leads ensure the film has international potential.

Adrian Drayton

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