14+ is another coming-of-age story, fumbling about with the sexuality of a teenage boy and the object of his affection. Andrey Zaytsev manages to at times make this rather tired storyline compelling through the endearing character of Lyuda, Alex’s mother, whose main concern is seeing that her son does not grow up to be like his father, or like the other men she has had the misfortune of meeting.
Alex (Gleb Kalyuzhny) represents the innocence of a rather normal, sexually inexperienced teenager who navigates the awkward stages before full-blown adulthood as best he can. His main challenges lie in his relationship with his mother, the pursuit of Vika and dealing with incredibly sinister skinhead bullies.
Contrasts are built between Alex and his friends, and a group of intimidating bullies posing as the stereotypical trope of the Russian man: aggressive and drunk. This is further perpetuated by Alex’s mother, who seems to worry that her son will grow up to be a drunk and disrespectful towards women. Alex’s pursuit of Vika is rather unsettling in its persistence, but regardless, a youthful and light relationship develops between the two. Despite experiencing the ultimate adolescent event, both are still lingering in the limbo that is teenage existence; old enough to know what it is that you want, but not quite old enough to acquire it. Their families still play a central role in their lives and their innocence is protected by parents who ultimately must accept their progression into adulthood, step by step.
Zaytsev depicts the subtly transformative events in Alex’s life with an understated precision, capturing the essence of a boy in movement, from one stage to the next. While the sentiment of 14+ is that of the complicated sidestep into adulthood, a lack of depth in the characters results in the film falling short of being an entirely engrossing experience.
14+ does not yet have a UK release date.
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