Written and directed by Jonah Hill in his directorial debut, Mid90s is a powerfully moving coming-of-age tale centring around 13-year-old Stevie (The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s Sunny Suljic), who is trying to find where he fits in as he negotiates a troubled home life and impresses a new group of skater friends, sending him down a dangerous path. Set in Los Angeles in the 1990s, the film is, according to Hill, in no way autobiographical, but is nonetheless a deeply personal project – and the love and attention that he’s poured in is evident in every frame of this masterpiece.
It’s clear that the director has gone to painstaking lengths to make his movie as authentic as possible to the time period. From the characters’ clothing and dialogue to the soundtrack and even the feature’s 4:3 aspect ratio, this is the best depiction of the 90s we could get, short of hopping in a time machine. Though Hill’s comedic writing is able to get many laughs through poking fun at the decade’s slang and attitudes, the setting is, in the grand scheme of things, a realistic backdrop to explore the colourful cast of characters we spend the runtime hanging out with – and this picture really goes to places we wouldn’t expect.
None of this would of course be possible if it weren’t for the cast (which includes Lucas Hedges, Katherine Waterston, Na-kel Smith and Olan Prenatt), who all give outstanding, career-defining performances. Once more, Hill knows exactly how to capture every scene to make the action feel as grounded as possible. In particular, the first-time filmmaker demonstrates a solid grasp of how to utilise editing to ensure every shot and performance has the biggest impact, holding onto a reaction until it becomes uncomfortable or abruptly cutting to reinforce a blow. And when this movie hits, it hits hard.
Underneath the rebellious teenage angst and underage drinking, however, this picture is best seen as an examination and celebration of friendship. This gives the narrative’s events a genuine warmth, which serves to make the sombre moments all the more affecting when they arise.
With his first feature, Hill has shown some real artistic talent as a director comparable with the best in the industry. Quite simply, Mid90s is a monumental triumph of cinema.
Mid90s is released nationwide on 12th April 2019.
Watch the trailer for Mid90s here: