‘Wasted On The Young’ is an incredibly audacious debut feature film from director Ben C. Lucas. It’s brave, inventive, gritty, powerful and incredibly well made. It’s the most refreshing Australian movie in a long while and it cannot be looped into a specific genre. Writer/director Lucas doesn’t even try to do this; he just tells this original story; and he tells it in a very unique way. I loved this film.
Even though it is set in and around an elite private school: ‘Wasted On The Young’ is much, much more than a commentary on todays youth. The focus of the film lies with step brothers Zack (Alex Russell) and Darren (Oliver Auckland).
Zack; in a true Shakespearean sense is the king of the school; the alpha-male; the leader of a gang; the most popular; the guy who can get you laid, the guy who can get you drugs – the swimming champion, he hosts killer parties… Basically he’s the king sh*t, he’s an asshole and he knows it; using his success to manipulate others.
His stepbrother Darren is on the other side of the social hierarchy: A dorky, quiet, computer type; picked on by most of the other students and who mostly keeps to himself – he deals with his isolation and loneliness by either escaping into online video games; or entertaining Columbine like fantasies of school shootings.
Then there is the girl: Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens); Xandrie is an incredibly smart and bubbly student with a bright future; the issue is that she is incredibly gorgeous; which causes all the bitchy “popular” girls to want her to be in their group. This school is fueled by gossip; and these girls create it: you either participate under peer pressure – or you wind up as the butt of the joke- like Darren.
Here lies the rub: Xandrie has a crush on Darren.
Darren and Xandrie connect for a brief moment in time.
Then Zack hosts a party; and out of spite for Darren (amongst other reasons), he and the rest of his group; drug Xandrie, brutally assault and rape her; leaving her for dead. After Xandrie doesn’t show up at school the next day; Darren sets out to find out what happened to her; no-one knows, says or does anything about her disappearance.
Either that or they are hiding something huge.
To say more about the plot of ‘Wasted On The Young’ would ruin all the surprising factors; and possibly ruin your full enjoyment of the film; but I will say that at this moment in the movie: something happens which turns this gritty/neo-noir murder mystery into something else entirely: it sets off a chain reaction of increasingly shocking and surprising events that ultimately culminates horrifically and ingeniously.
It really is a very tight, and economical script that Lucas has written: It deals with ideas of technology; social status; privacy; gossip; power-plays; isolation and loneliness; rape, violence…there is a lot going on in this film, and none of it is over-done.
One of the excellent aspects of ‘Wasted On The Young’ is the very adult subject matter of it all; it is brutally confrontational; real and raw – but its never overcooked. The handling of such matters as rape; and particularly the effects that it has on an individual take careful hands to make watchable; Lucas expertly deals with these issues; and allows them to be completely real; and very cinematic and powerful at the same time.
Whilst Lucas shoots the film with such vibrance and cinematic energy; he never loses sight of the themes and the characters; and I guess this would be because of how human and relatable the story and settings are.
Its High School, and although it focuses on rich kids; almost everybody has been through that system; and even out of high school we experience it everyday: the dichotomy between the popular and the shunned, the pretty and the ugly, the fat and the thin, the white and the black…its all here and it is dealt with wonderfully.
‘Wasted On The Young’ is not an enjoyable film: it is brutal; rough; raw and gritty: you will not be comfortable – but you will be enthralled. All of this is done through Lucas’ script, his direction and the characters.
The performers who bring these characters to life are all excellent and help carry the film, particularly the main trio: Adelaide Clemens, Alex Russell and Oliver Auckland…man, they were all so good; delivering such real and subtle performances; that if they were weaker could have turned the entire film into some soap opera bullsh*t.
However, this film could never look like a soap opera, its just shot so cinematically. Lucas has a great eye for visuals and pacing, and in collaboration with cinematographer Dan Freene; they have created the best looking Australian film in a while; it has a style that is so unique and energetic; images are slick, and camera movement is effortless – there are even incredibly striking sequences; such as underwater swimming and drug fueled/strobe light crazy parties. On top of this the production design from Sam Hobbs, and the editing by Leanne Cole are also excellent…All of these departments tie together to create this tension filled engaging story.
My only complaint is regarding some of the digital effects work in the movie; there are effects all throughout the film; particularly floating text bubbles to illustrate mobile phone and online messaging; but it wasn’t this that bothered me- I loved that stuff – it was more this jarring digital video erosion effect that Lucas employs in some dream sequences. I understand what his intent with it was, but I found it wholly unnecessary and it undermined a couple of scenes that were fine otherwise.
Other than that the film is just executed brilliantly. From the wonderful script-work; to the cinematography; the editing and the propulsive soundtrack.
I hope many people see this movie and help make it the success it deserves to be. If not then at least everybody involved shouldn’t struggle to find work after the quality they have displayed here – especially the great cast and the amazing directorial work of Ben C. Lucas – Who is one talent that we Australians (and internationally) have to keep a eye out for.
At a budget of $2 million dollars; this is better quality film-making than most of what Hollywood pumps out. It’s original and fresh. It’s not marketable. It’s true cinematic art. At the end of the day the greatest thing I can say about ‘Wasted On The Young’ is that it is inspirational- it shows that Australian’s can get original and fresh indie films made – films that don’t have huge stars or massive amounts of Government funding. Just talent, passion and a willingness to be there.
This is a must see. I really want to give this a 10, but it falls just shy. Go and see it; it will spark a conversation.
I don’t think this trailer really does the film justice, make sure you don’t let it affect you negatively – go and see it anyway!
9.5 out of 10.