Afterschool (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/08/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Engaging, provocative and superbly acted, this is an impressively directed drama that feels like a darker, arthouse version of a teen movie for the YouTube generation and marks writer-director Campos out as a talent to watch.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Antonio Campos (whose debut feature Buy It Now was about a girl auctioning her virginity on eBay), Afterschool stars Ezra Miller as Rob, a withdrawn student who's ignored by all the richer kids at his New England boarding school and prefers to spend his time watching what he calls “little clips of things that feel real” (including porn and happy-slapping videos) on the internet. Meanwhile, Rob's roommate Dave (Jeremy Allen White) deals drugs out of their room but steadfastly refuses to introduce Rob to any of his friends, telling him that he's just not cool enough.

When Rob joins the afterschool video club, he's paired with Amy (Addison Timlin), an attractive girl he likes, for a school project and the pair become closer, especially after turning the camera on each other and asking personal questions. However, things change after Rob inadvertently records the shocking deaths of the school's two most popular students, who turn out to have been poisoned by cocaine that Dave probably sold them.

The Good
The performances are fantastic, particularly Miller, who manages to convey a wealth of emotion with the absolute bare minimum of expression – this is at times both heartbreaking and unsettling. There's also strong support from White and Timlin, while Michael Stuhlbarg and Gary Wilmes are great as the principal and the world's most useless counsellor, respectively.

Campos' stylised direction (composed of off-centre shots, seemingly random close-ups, back-of-the-head shots and so on) seems at odds with what's actually a surprisingly fast-paced and engaging plot. Similarly, the dialogue rings true throughout and there are some extremely provocative and disturbing scenes, such as a moment that hints that Rob's taste in porn may have done more damage than he realises.

The Great
The excellent script touches fascinating themes (notably the abject hypocrisy of the school staff) and also manages to convey a moment of pure emotional devastation more acutely than any number of Hollywood teen flicks.

Worth seeing?
Afterschool is an impressively directed, sharply written and brilliantly acted high school drama that's by turns provocative and disturbing. Highly recommended.

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Afterschool (18)
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Content updated: 22/10/2017 20:07

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