Sometimes it seems like our world is spiraling out of control. Schools and theaters are getting shot up, public places are being bombed in the name of religion and teenagers are getting gang raped by their peers before pictures of the atrocity are passed around on facebook faster than a joint at a DMB concert. Yes, you could argue that ancient Rome was worse, but I didn’t live then/there nor would I want to. These are strange times we live in and modern technology connects all of us weirdos together, for better or worse, in ways the world has never seen before. This is what makes Indomina Releasing’s “Wasted on the Young” (available now on DVD) so interesting. All the perversions found in today’s headlines are explored in a film made three years ago and half a world away… and it really hits home.
Step-brothers Darren (Oliver Ackland) and Zack (Alex Russell) couldn’t be more different. Darren is quiet and reserved. He isn’t very popular and would rather bury himself in his computer than socialize with his classmates. Zack is a bit of an alpha-male. He’s the captain of the swim team and very popular with the ladies. He’s also not a fan of Darren, feeling pressure from his father to be more studious like the new step-son. On a regular basis, Zack and his cronies bully and intimidate Darren who more or less tries to stay out of their way.
But things get complicated when Xandie (Adelaide Clemens), a girl Zack’s had his eye on, falls for Darren. She attempts to get closer to him by attending a house party Zack throws at the boys’ home, when someone slips drugs into her drink. While Darren searches for her, Xandie finds herself locked in the basement with the swim team. As she falls unconscious, Zack and his friends assault and rape the girl before driving her out to a beach and leaving her there to die.
Xandie is missing from school for several days and Darren, concerned by her absence, begins looking for answers. Hacking into a laptop belonging to one of Zack’s pals, he’s devastated to find video files of the attack. In the meantime, Xandie returns to school acting as if nothing at all had happened. She shrugs off her new reputation as the class whore, showing absolutely no sense of bother. However, beneath her nonchalant exterior, a fiery rage bubbles in search of revenge and Xandie sets in motion a chain of events that changes the lives of everybody involved.
Some will find “Wasted on the Young” very difficult to watch in light of recent situations of bullying and teen suicide. But that isn’t entirely what the film is about, really. It explores the powers and privileges allowed to certain students simply because their peers don’t stand up to them. Yes, the film takes place in a high school, but the lesson here could just as well be applied to anything. A landlord, a boss, a police officer. A politician. A society can only be free from tyranny if its members let their voices be heard. As the film states: to say nothing, is to be an accomplice.
But there’s also a statement here about the iphone generation and how lives can instantly be ruined through irresponsible text messages and social media postings. With the click of a keystroke, you can humiliate someone not just in front of the entire school, but the entire world. Lives can literally be ruined in the blink of an eye – all from a laptop and a heaping pile of immaturity. That’s a pretty huge responsibility for a child to shoulder. It’s almost like handing out loaded guns to an elementary school and hoping no harm is done.
Writen and directed by first time feature filmmaker Ben C. Lucas, “Wasted on the Young” is a hyper-stylized, journey into the darkness of youth. Expertly written, the film’s dialogue rings true to the ear and most scenes are jam-packed with tension and emotion. The script takes twists and turns that most won’t see coming, yet will simultaneously leave the viewer feeling unsettled by parallels to real world current events. Complementing this is Lucas’s incredible visual sensibilities. Using a steely blue palette and thick pools of darkness, the film is shot in way that elicits the feeling of sinking deeper and deeper into dangerous waters. Fortunately, solid performances from all are enough to keep the audience from feeling like they’re drowning in a 97 minute pool of depression. I can easily see bright careers for the three leads and their fearless writer/director.
The DVD’s picture quality is gorgeous (as any movie with such a cool look deserves) and the 5.1 surround sound mix is great, but there really aren’t any extras on the disc. There’s the Australian theatrical release trailer and an option to switch to stereo sound. In the least, I would’ve loved to see a director’s commentary as this is obviously a picture with a lot on its mind. Oh well… c’est la vie.
“Wasted on the Youth” is a solid 3 out of 4 angels. It’s stylish, thought provoking (I certainly couldn’t get it out of my head) and not like anything I’ve seen recently. Lucas is definitely an auteur who isn’t afraid to tackle difficult subjects and for that he should be applauded. But be forewarned, those directly affected by rape may find it hard to sit through.