Descending To Disaster
When I was a teenager, I used to be a drug addict. With that in mind, watching anything on the topic of drug use is always difficult to pull off accurately. HBO’s Euphoria and 90’s cinema hit Trainspotting are some of the better examples of doing this topic justice and while not quite reaching those lofty heights itself, Adolescence does well nonetheless. It’s not perfect, and at times the film does meander on a little slowly before it gets to the meat of the drama, but the slow burn is certainly worth persevering with when things do eventually bubble up and explode in a flurry of emotion. Despite Adolescence feeling bathed in darkness for much of its run-time, some of the camera work is surprisingly good and India Eisley is given a decent range to work with here compared to her role in I Am The Night earlier this year.
The story begins with a brief prologue depicting a snapshot of the abusive household Adam grew up in. With an alcohol dependent Father and a Mother too apathetic to stand up to him, we then cut forward to Adam as a teenager; an introvert unable to connect with girls. Despite his friend Keith’s best efforts, Adam remains socially awkward around the opposite sex until he happens upon mysterious runaway Alice. After smoking together through the sunset and into the dead of night, Adam finds himself wrapped up in a world of drugs and sex as he falls hard for Alice and tumbles down the slippery slope to addiction.
The journey is gradual, perhaps too gradual at times and for the first 40 minutes or so, there isn’t a whole lot that happens in Adolescence. During this time we’re introduced to our main characters and see Adam’s descent but it’s not until a dramatic incident in his family life where things speed up and we see Alice lead him by the hand into a much darker world than before. The slow burn does pay off but given the amount of time it takes to actually reach this point, some people may be put off by the realistic and somewhat anticlimactic manner this is depicted.
In a way, Adolescence plays out as a much more poignant and slower paced version of Thirteen. For those unaware, this 2003 teen drama depicted the descent into rebellious destruction through the strained eyes of her Mother perfectly, literally seeing her daughter change before her eyes. While Adolescence doesn’t quite match that film in terms of intensity or striking familial message, it still does a pretty good job showing how destructive drugs can be. While I personally feel the final third of the film wraps things up a little too quickly, there’s enough here to chew through nonetheless.
While some of the dialogue borders on exaggerated and over-acting, especially for Adam as he lashes out, for the most part the cast do well to realistically depict the harmful effect of drugs. It may not be the most exciting film but Adolescence is a decent coming of age drama nonetheless, one that uncomfortably shows how far one can go in the name of love and the desire to fit in. If you’re patient, Adolescence does reward that with a gripping third act but whether you’ll make it that far remains to be seen.