Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom/USA/France, 2012. Partizan Films, Jouror Productions, Next Stop Production. Screenplay by Michel Gondry, Jeffrey Grimshaw, Paul Proch. Cinematography by Alex Disenhof. Produced by Raffi Adlan, Georges Bermann, Julie Fong, Michel Gondry. Production Design by Tommaso Ortino. Costume Design by Sarah Mae Burton. Film Editing by Jeff Buchanan. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
A group of high school students get on a New York City bus in the Bronx after the end of the last day of school, and we remain in transit with them throughout the duration of this surprisingly charismatic film. The cast, a group of unknowns with a high level of talent among them, spend the majority of time on this lengthy journey either in a state of provoking their fellow passengers (including a lot of dismaying bullying both verbal and physical) or reacting to them (including acts of peacemaking or flat-out vehement rejections). There’s plenty of gossip, advice and hectoring, and it takes a while to really get to the point that you feel it’s going somewhere (no pun intended), but stick with it long enough and you start to see a theme emerging. What makes these kids so infuriating is how very much they think they know (versus what they do), and what makes them so endearing is how very much they are at the mercy of the uncertain future of which they are increasingly aware. The end packs the best punch, with one character learning the consequences of how little it matters who we are on the inside when we seek rewards for how we behave on the outside, but director Michel Gondry’s lack of subtlety (and a few unnecessary visual flourishes that feel like empty showing off) will make it difficult for some audience members to swallow. It’s not an unforgettable film, and it is hard to tell to what degree Gondry is either judging his characters or simply exploring them, but there is something impressive about how spontaneous it all feels and how natural many of the conversations are.