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Depression, like other elements of our personality (the shape of our noses, a taste for spicy food) is an heirloom that can be passed from one generation to another.
Unfortunately, these insights are lost in a production that reeks of clichés: Oliver Tate reads Catcher in the Rye and Nietzsche (don’t all depressed teenagers?
Another of the interweaving extended metaphors is film and its language.
Oliver is a well-informed fifteen-year old who understands some of the complexities and economics of the film industry (as was no doubt Joe Dunthorn, author of the novel).
It does not compare well with Napoleon Dynamite (2004) for a toe-curling study of the social outcast, or Juno (2007) as an exploration of teenage sexuality and its consequences.
However, the bulk of the piece hangs less on formal effect than on character-driven performances which – though they occasionally reference Mike Leigh – don’t really get to the heart of the emotions of the people concerned: this is a problem, because the theme is emotional, but the treatment avoids emotions, often preferring to make some slight filmic reference in an apparent attempt to shrug off the seriousness of the material.Their virginity-losing date, for example, begins with Jordana snapping, “Thanks for living up a fucking hill”, and concludes with her warning, “Don’t get cocky.” Meanwhile, Oliver talks of brief hat phases and routine searches of his parents’ bedroom, while at one point poignantly reflecting, with truly adolescent angstiness, that “we’re all travelling under the radar and there’s nothing we can do about it”.