Wasted on the Young

Year: 2010
Production Co: WBMC
Director: Ben C Lucas
Writer: Ben C Lucas
Cast: Adelaide Clemens, Oliver Ackland, Alex Russell

This thriller shot in Perth is ultra-stylish, angular and beautiful to look at, and even though I kept waiting for it to get boring (thanks to a lot of tropes and characters I've seen a hundred times before), it held my interest for long enough to take me to the end.

There are a lot of familiar archetypes – from the party animal alpha male Zack (Alex Russell) to the gaggle of bitchy prima donnas and the quiet, shy hero Darren (Oliver Acklund).

Darren's everything his half brother Zack isn't, and he can't even pick up the signals when the smart, pretty Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens) seems to like him, preferring to play games and do the occasional hack for his friends.

But Zack wants Xandrie, and when he doesn't get what he wants, things turn nasty. Conspiring to get her drunk at a party at his and Darren's house, he and his friends date rape her and dump her half clothed at the beach in the middle of the night.

The gossip about Xandrie spreads fast across the social networks (both technological and human) of the school, and Darren has to become the hero he's never wanted to be.

Considering it's a debut effort by writer/director Ben C Lucas, the fact that there are only two things that don't quite work is quite an achievement. The first is that – like Peanuts comic strips – the complete absence of adults from these kids' worlds doesn't ring quite true.

It was probably a conscious narrative decision, maybe a comment on how the family is fracturing in the technological age as kids and their computers are increasingly disconnected from their parents. Maybe it was to give the story a slightly fairy story-ish quality (if so the stark realism didn't quite gel with that) – when the threat of gun violence appears in the climax, teachers and parents are still nowhere to be seen.

The other problem is that Darren takes a frustratingly long time to find his spine and do something both to stand up for himself and protect Xandrie. He's at home during the party incident, and he and Xandrie have been texting to try and meet up before the bitchy clique diverts her to the basement where the trap is set. When he loses track of her, he just gives up and goes back to his room.

Again, it might lend itself to a slightly allegorical, fairy-tale quality, but it's hard to believe a teenager can't find someone he's looking for in his own house no matter how loud the party or how many people.

But I'm nitpicking. It's a great looking movie with sharp lines and colours, the design of the school and house where Darren and Zack live out their lives visually arresting, and even though everyone in the cast is pretty new (I'd only seen Clemens in movies before), the actors are all as good as the material.

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