Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2018
Scott R. Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Growing up with an angelic assist

Roger is a one-man, non-stop party. Decked out in a multi-colored robe with the image of a marijuana plant on its back, he gives every indication of seldom leaving the couch where we find him. Easily amused, he gulps down his bowl of cereal in front of the television. In the course of the short film Maturing Youth we come to learn that this thirty-year-old is supporting his lifestyle—such as it is—through the generosity of his mother in Florida and some sort of social welfare. When he gets bored, he invites two passing strangers into his house to get high.

Life, however, is conspiring to turn him around. Perhaps the best way to think of this 34-minute “dramedy” (as the filmmakers classify it) is the millennial/slacker answer to It’s a Wonderful Life. As in Frank Capra’s beloved classic, things get increasingly grim up until the point when they cannot possibly get more dire—followed by unexpected divine intervention. The difference is that George Bailey, as played by the eminently charming Jimmy Stewart, was a nice guy for whom we rooted as we watched his downward spiral. In the early going of this flick, Roger seems to have few redeeming characteristics. The difference, I suppose, is that this is about today’s world and not about the Greatest Generation.

Kim Paris, Joshua St. Leger and Sean A Kaufman in Maturing Youth Thin, bearded and egocentric to a fault, Roger is played by Sean A Kaufman, who holds our attention even as we cringe at his self-indulgent man-child antics. His spontaneous guests (Mae and Maggie, invited in off the street) are played good-naturedly by Darleen Rae Fontaine and Rae’l Ba. The catalyst for altering the trajectory of his wayward existence is the sudden appearance of his one-time girlfriend Sadie, played Kim Paris. Angry and at the end of her tether, she arrives unannounced with a surprise for our reluctant hero. Paris brings a nice bit of realistic heft into a story that is, for the most part, about someone not living in the real world.

Her surprise for Roger comes in the form of Junior. As played by young Joshua St. Leger, he has an extremely natural presence and the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen. It is guaranteed to melt the heart of even the most recalcitrant curmudgeon. First-time child actors can be problematic in films such as this, but the camera absolutely loves St. Leger as he lights up a screen that has been dimmed by Roger’s inveterate weakness. If any face could make a wastrel want to become more responsible, it is this one. The main cast is rounded out by Terrence Keene as Dr. Riccard, who is called in to treat a sudden illness. A doctor who makes house calls in this day and age is miraculous enough, but we come to learn that this physician may have an even more specifically divine purpose. Albee Castro also plays a pivotal sort-of-dual role and is effective and moving in both guises. His brief screen time is impactful and haunting.

Storywise, Maturing Youth has a hurdle to get over because of its mostly unlikable central character, but by the end we cannot help but be moved by and appreciative of its basic, essential and timeless life lesson. The film is written and directed by Divoni Simon.

The film is scheduled for release next month. In the meantime, you can check out it is teaser trailer.

You can find more information about Maturing Youth at its official web site and on Facebook and Instagram. Further information can be found on the web site of the film’s production company R&F Entertainment and its Facebook and Instagram pages.

-S.L., 5 April 2018

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