is a fascinating study of teenagers and how they deal with revenge, peer pressure, and react to crisis. It’s a film that makes you wonder what you would’ve done if in a similar situation (because many of us were picked on as youths including myself).
The film opens with George (Josh Peck) beating up Sam (Rory Culkin) in a schoolyard brawl. Sam tells his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) who decides they need to cook something up to get back at the bully.
Sam’s posse of buddies including Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley) concoct a plan to embarrass George by leaving him naked at the river, so he’d have to run home alone in the nude. They invite George to Sam’s fake birthday party where the trap is set to be sprung.
After picking him up though we and the characters start to feel for George who is really just a sad lonely kid. Jacob Aaron Estes the writer/director brilliantly makes us and the other kids go back and forth on how we react to George.
At times we want to protect him and others throttle to kill him. Millie (Carly Schroeder) also goes along for the boat ride, but she convinces Sam to call off the prank. Sam tries to get his brother and the others too as well, but Marty isn’t willing to give up on this bit of fun.
George learns of their plan midway down the river and begins taunting the group, pushing all of their buttons. He gets knocked off the boat, hits his head, and drowns.
The rest of the kids don’t know what to do. Marty takes charge and buries the body. Soon the other kids decide his plan to just pretend the incident never happened will never work.
The child actors are amazingly effective. The entire ensemble gives terrific performances; it’s really impossible to single anyone out. The dialogue is realistic in how it considers the moral dilemmas the kids face. I can’t wait to see the next feature Mr. Estes makes – this was a helluva debut.
3.5 out of 4 stars