20th Century Women
Adolescence. If there is one challenge in life that unites us all, it is the process of emotional, mental and bodily change that moulds and prepares us for the big wide world of adulthood. How we are raised during this period of development ultimately determines our future makeup, but just how smooth the transition is is wholly dependent on how well we are brought up.
“I believe that getting your heart broken is a tremendous way to figure out the world,” is just one of Annette Bening’s quirky quips in Mike Mill’s gloriously kitsch, semi-autobiographical 20th Century Women; a film that explores family values, young love and the all-important feat of growing up.
Set in 1979 in sunny Santa Barbara, Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening) worries about the future of Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), her pre-pubescent son. Rejecting her usual method of finding a male role model, she instead seeks the support of experimental art-grad Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and long-time friend Julie (Elle Fanning) to help nourish and raise Jamie. What follows is a hilarious yet touching story of a decaying relationship between mother and son, and their struggle to reconnect in an ever changing world.
20th Century Women evokes a similar style to other mumblecore films of this century with there being less focus on theatrical drama and more emphasis on naturalistic, though at times idealised, portrayals of real relationships. The characters are quirky but far from contrived. Jamie may read feminist literature as a way of connecting with his inner self, yet he still embodies the all too familiar teen angst, and Abbie, although painted as such an effortless free spirit, still struggles with the aftershocks of overcoming a life-threatening disease.
The movie shares parallels with other coming-of-age indie dramas such as Diary of a Teenage Girl, yet its heartfelt and realistic approach results in a resonating poignancy. Filled with so many intertextual snippets and cultural gibes (there are a few moments where Dorothea’s parenting skills are blamed on the result of being raised in “The Great Depression”), 20th Century Women stands out as an intellectual comment on the nature of society and its effects on the deeper human consciousness.
Smart, touching and outlandishly brilliant, 20th Century Women is certainly not one to miss.
20th Century Women is released in selected cinemas on 20th January 2017.
Watch the trailer for 20th Century Women here: