There are certain stories I’m drawn to (more so in movies than books in this instance) where a young person’s journey from adolescence into adulthood is magnified. They be best described as “coming-of-age” stories. Usually in these films, we get a glimpse into a select moment and are shown who this young person is, what they desire, what they fear, etc. These have a way of grasping my full attention for reasons I’ll explain if you so choose to keep reading.
The most recent experience I had was with the film “Lady Bird”, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan. The film takes place in Sacramento, CA in 2002. Normally, I relate more to coming-of-age stories of boys (see “The Way Way Back” and “Boyhood”) but I found myself enjoying watching this young woman going through her senior in high school and preparing to go to college. Mainly, my enjoyment has to with the fact that I was a senior in high school in 2002-03 in southern California (not Los Angeles) also. Much of her struggles with school, classmates, and parents felt very visceral to me all the while the war in Iraq had just started and was often playing in the background of settings. I remember those days so clearly.
Suffice to say “Lady Bird” gripped me instantly and since it was on my “Movies of 2017 to Watch” list, I was able to look past the immaturity of the main character and pick out subtle things I loved. Most of those were references to the time and culture but they were enough to keep me engaged. I don’t know if I’d recommend the movie to be honest. It was okay but not grand (it absolutely reeked of whatever it is the Academy Award’s consider award-worthy). I think 2016’s “The Edge of Seventeen” was far-superior film and much funnier (also having a female lead).
I don’t know why these kinds of films draw me in. I don’t consider my own “coming-of-age” experience to be all that impressive. I went to high school, graduated, went to college, delayed graduation by slacking and feeling uninspired, and then met my wife, finished my degree, established a career, and now have a baby. It’s all very simple yet fulfilling. These films however have much better highlights that involve conquering fears or making decisions not to be part of the status quo. Then again, a film of my life would not attract much of an audience so I understand and appreciate the screenwriters who add drama and tension in order to push the main character a little closer to adulthood.
I think that’s the reason I am drawn to these kinds of films. I enjoy watching the maturation of an individual especially when they realize adolescence is such a small part of life and the horrors of high school fade quickly. Experiencing life is sweeter when stepping out from the social constructs of narrow expectation.
Call to Action: I threw out the names of a few coming-of-age films I like but I also recommend these as well: Stand By Me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Kings of Summer, and my favorite of all time: The Breakfast Club.