The age of angst in ‘As You Are’
As You Are may be a coming-of-age story set in the midst of the grunge wave of the 90s, but it’s most certainly not a nostalgic film – sorry, GenXers. If the movie does take its viewers back to the era of chokers and flannel shirts, it’s more reminiscent of Kids, the dark, controversial film from 1995.
Kids represented youth through a lens of gritty realism in that failed to tie everything up in a shiny bow and a happy ending. In As You Are, 23-year-old writer and director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte takes a similar tone as he examines teenage angst and friendships.
The story follows Jack (Owen Campbell) and Mark (Charlie Heaton), two small-town outcasts who form a brotherly bond when their parents start dating and move in together. It’s seemingly the perfect patchwork family. After straight-laced Sarah (Amandla Stenberg) swoops in to save them from a group of bullies, the boys befriend her and the trio becomes inseparable. They engage in typical teenage behavior like smoking weed and skipping classes, but this isn’t a story about those kinds of youthful hijinks.
As the movie plays out, it moves back and forth between an ongoing police interrogation and flashbacks of the three navigating the waters of flirtation, friendship, and high school life. As the flashbacks progress, the story darkens, becoming violent and erratic. What are the police investigating? Was someone murdered? If so, who? Joris-Peyrafitte keeps the audience guessing, beautifully building the story up to its dark and dramatic climax.
The cast features veteran actors along with a few newer faces. Mary Stuart Masterson stars as Jack’s single mom, Karen, while Scott Cohen plays Tom, her controlling boyfriend and Mark’s dad. Campbell, whom audiences enjoyed in The Americans, takes an emotionally turbulent turn as Mark.
Fans of the retro sci-fi Netflix drama Stranger Things will recognize Heaton, whose performance in this film garners comparisons to River Phoenix. Meanwhile, Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg is magnetic and captivating in her performance as Sarah.
As You Are has generated a huge amount of buzz amongst critics. It was nominated for the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney deemed it “a solid debut that announces a talent to watch.” It’s definitely not one to miss, if for no other reason than to be a witness to the genesis of the incredibly talented Joris-Peyrafitte. Viewers can catch As You Are on Amazon.