‘A lot of the time we feel that our lives the worst, but you wouldn’t trade your shit for their shit…’
I bloody love a coming-of-age tale me. Stand By Me, Dazed and Confused, all John Hughes movies. The soundtracks are normally great, it reminds us of a simpler time in our own lives, and it also encourages reflection on adolescence and what it means to be a grown up. Mostly, from what I can tell, adulting means being tired and eating chocolate whenever the hell I like. Mid90s very much follows the coming-of-age tradition but still manages to say something new…
Stevie (Sunny Suljic) is a normal kid growing up in a dysfunctional family. Abuse and neglect abound but, on the whole, Stevie is doing ok. His life is given meaning by a chance encounter with some older, skater kids who take him under their wing. So, basically, the plot of This is England but in America and with skateboards instead of boots and braces.
If Stranger Things embraced its influences by being a homage to those big blockbusters from the ’80s and ’90s, Mid90s instead looks to the more arty work of Larry Clark, Richard Linklater and Kevin Smith for both aesthetic and atmosphere. This is a film that wears its low budget on its sleeve. Less American dollars doesn’t translate to a lack of care however. The script, penned by director Jonah Hill, is both heartwarming and realistic, and Hill isn’t afraid to do away with big set pieces in favour of a more intimate approach. The young cast are all excellent with Suljic and debutant Olan Prenatt particularly excellent. The more experienced Lucas Hedges adds a touch of class to the proceedings in a nuanced turn as Stevie’s confused older brother Ian.
Mid90s is a comment on domestic abuse, toxic masculinity and teenage aimlessness, without ever rubbing those topics in your face. Jonah Hill’s labour of love is crafted with care and tenderness and this results in a film that deserves acclaim for all involved. Kudos also to Netflix for allowing this kind of low key movie to get made. The downside being that the clamour for evermore content means that this was pretty much brushed under the carpet as soon as it was released. For those that seek it out however, Mid90s is a worthy treat.