Director: Ben Shelton
This film gives a story of diversity, growing up, sacrifice, and ways of coping with failure, when the whole world seems to be falling apart.
The film has some nice messages incorporated into the story. A high school couple Lona (Sami Gayle) and Bennett (Jacob Latimore), are falling in love, without even being aware this is happening. She is white, and he is black, which is nice, because even though we live in 21st century inter-racial love stories are still not normalised in the mainstream popular culture.
On the other hand, the film also shows what it means to sacrifice and devote your whole youth to succeeding in life. In that, the film challenges the current US education system, which requires children to plan their future from the young age. As Lona says when she breaks down in state finals, she is not allowed to drink or vote, but she had to plan her future when she was too young and sacrifice her youth. In other words, while their peers were partying and enjoying life, Lona and Bennett were studying to achieve the best possible marks, and they were fiercely engaged in a debate club and local and state competition. All that was to get into Harvard (her) and Yale (him), two very prestigious Ivy League Universities. Ultimately, all sacrifice felt like nothing and the couple started to question the system and their lives. They also started to question what it means to succeed, and who is the one who decides who is successful.
Many good points are being made in this film, and the story definitely tackles everyday lives of teenagers. Unlikely for other teenager movies that focus on partying and enjoying life, this one focuses on those called nerds and the sacrifices they make. The film also portrays parents and their way of dealing with success and problems in life. Thus, her mother is poor and jealous of his mother, the wealthy senator with connections in the high political circles.
I liked the story and points made, however what I did not like was the execution. There is too much debating in the film. While I would definitely not mind this if it was used to articulate political and social messages about society and education system in general, I did mind it in the way it was done, because the debating is excessively speedy and thus entirely incomprehensible. While this way of speedy reading of arguments in the debate is incorporated into a story of robotising humans, and children in particular by forcing them to do more than it is humanely possible, I would have still preferred a more nuanced debate so that we can understand arguments better. Or, I would have at least preferred less of this speedy and incomprehensible debating, which takes too much of the film. Because of the way it was done, the film is at occasions difficult to follow and somewhat dull, which is a shame because the story is interesting and the issues tackled are very important.
In addition, another problem with this film is the candy jar reference. While candies are pertinent to the school adviser who supports students in all their endeavors, she has not been visible in the film enough for the film to have a name based on her distinctive practice. I did like the character and the quirky way she was imagined, i.e. a lady who has numerous candy jars everywhere in the office and her house, and I also liked the type of support she was giving to her students. However, she should have been more visible and more explored to be used as a name of the film.
Thank you for reading.