2013: The Year of the coming of age drama
As 2014 begins, it’s time for us to look back at the year that has just been, to contextualise it and put it into a nice box. Was 2013 a good year? A rubbish one? Full of action movies, or romances, or re-inventions of genres? Were there too many sequels or not enough?
If 2012 was the year of the superhero game-changers – with both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises breaking records – I would say that 2013 was the year that the film world quietened down. 2013 was a year in which we looked back to our childhoods, reminisced about first loves and best friends, and remembered a time that the world could be anything we wanted it to be.
2013 was the year of the coming-of-age drama.
To prove my point, I present Exhibit A and more:
The Way, Way Back
Arguably one of the best films of the year, The Way, Way Back was written and directed by the Oscar-winning writers behind 2012’s The Descendents. It focuses on Duncan, an introvert who is forced to spend summer with his step-father and family in a holiday home.
It’s a film that perfectly captures the awkward feeling of being a teenager, trapped between adulthood and childhood. Duncan isn’t charismatic; the film has Sam Rockwell for that. Duncan doesn’t win the girl over in a sweeping statement of love, he doesn’t solve familial problems and he doesn’t suddenly become the cool kid. But he’s a little bit wiser at the end, and he has a couple of friends.
It’s a brilliant snapshot into a young man’s life.
The Spectacular Now
Only given the smallest release in the UK, The Spectacular Now is appearing across many top ten lists from bloggers and critics alike. It tells the story about a slacker, cool kid, who meets a girl that changes everything. Like the title suggests, The Spectacular Now evokes the wonderful feeling of now that youth feel. The sense that the right now is so important, so full of potential.
It’s also a sweet romance that evokes the sense of first love. It’s giddy, youthful film-making at its best.
The Kings of Summer
Taking influences from Stand By Me, The Kings of Summer is the story about three friends who run away from home and built a tree house in the woods. It’s very funny and full of heart, with some great young leads. There’s a sense of surreality, that the world is an odd beast that we still don’t understand.
There’s first love and first loss in the story, but ultimately it’s a story about friendship. The three boys are brothers-in-arms, sworn to live free and have fun. We remember our friends, our adventures.
“So what?” I hear you say. Three films don’t define a whole year, especially small films. So let me offer a few more examples.
What Maisie Knew is the story of a young girl, coping with her parents’ divorce. It’s sweet, brutal and, ultimately, heart-warming.
Short Term 12 is a great film début, that’s all about the lives of several youths, and how childhood affects us even in our adult lives.
Kick-Ass 2 is about Hit-Girl coming of age, realising that there is more to life than fighting crime.
Carrie is about the drama of high-school, and about the horrors of growing up. It has telekinetic powers, sure, but there’s a story of a young girl there.
This year’s Pixar offering, Monsters University, was all about growing up to realise that just because you want to be something, doesn’t mean that you will be.
Man of Steel, despite all the city-destroying, was ultimately a story about a young man deciding who to grow into.
Even The World’s End was almost the sequel to many coming-of-age dramas. It’s the result of what happens when you believe that life will get better as an adult, and it never does. Edgar Wright himself has spoken about it almost seemingly like the direct sequel to The Spectacular Now.
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And there we have it: plenty of evidence to show that there was a definite thread running through 2013. We started being told stories of growing up and childhood, even in the year’s biggest blockbusters.
The main question to ask now is: What will 2014 really be about?
This article was written by The Note Show Contributor Chris S.
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