- Naturalistic is the best way to describe the performances here. Sunny Suljic is the engine of the narrative and he brings such authenticity to the role of “Stevie”. As he seemingly channels the performance given by Antoine Doinel in the 1959 coming-of-age classic “The 400 Blows”. Though one of many non-professional actor performances, the performance given by Na-kel Smith (one of many established professional skaters in the film) here is by far the biggest find of them all. Smith brings such warmth and genuineness to his character “Ray”. Smith’s nuanced delivery of a poignant and emotionally pivoting monologue seen later in the film shows he has much potential if he wants to continue with some kind of acting career down the road.
- As much as this film chronicles the maturation of “Stevie”, we as well see that behind the camera with the direction by Jonah Hill. Hill shows a real knack for acting direction as he pulls some solid performances out of multiple non-professional actors. Hill’s direction captures an undercurrent of danger and desperation very well throughout, as we see “Stevie” exploring a newfound world. Hill shoots this film in the 4:3 academy aspect ratio (essentially a square box) and in a very grainy super 16mm, all of which suck you into a very particular time and culture. Observational over cinematic, this film is an encapsulation of the meandering pathway to adulthood, that is as well a lively snapshot of skate culture.
- Jonah Hill’s screenplay along with his direction, as previously mentioned, brings the meandering feeling of childhood/young adulthood extremely well even for its very slim 84 minute runtime. With the help of the performances, Hill builds his characters here tremendously, as throughout the film they seem to fall off the screen effortlessly. Hill’s passion for the culture is undeniably as he soaks in the period details in both the language and visuals.
- The cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt brings a distinct style that is enwrapped with the culture at hand. Blauvelt takes advantage of the 4:3 aspect ratio as he frames the character’s bodies instead of their faces. Capturing the rough and tough, yet visually poetic, nature of skating. Blauvelt as well brings smooth fluid camera movement as he reveals a new world and culture not just to “Stevie”, but to us the audience as well.
- The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is real strong. As they both bring to life the frantic soul searching of our lead character “Stevie”.
- The screenplay doesn’t establish the family life that well and seeing that the film has such a short runtime it definitely could have been fleshed out a little more. Also this story overall is one you’ve seen before, so you can pick up most of the beats as it goes along.
- Though a vast majority of the performances are very strong, there are moments from one in particular that come off a little stale.