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Top Five Must-See ‘Coming of Age’ Films

Richard Linklater's Boyhood Film Poster Source: Flickr, Global Panorama

What is a coming-of-age film? This genre is frequently billed as teen drama: an insulting description which suggests these films are shallow and restricted. But a conflicted protagonist and classic issues of love and education make for films that are far from shallow. Instead, they are enriched by the vantage point of their teen or young adult protagonist.

Coming-of-age films offer a unique perspective on how we grow up, and how circumstances affect this process. The possibilities for these films are endless, making this an open-ended genre. So, as someone whose Tinder bio states that I have seen every coming-of-age film since 1995, I feel I am a worthy guide for any coming-of-age novice. Here are my top five recommendations:

Boyhood

Richard Linklater follows the life of the protagonist, Mason (El- lar Coltrane), from childhood to university. The beauty of this film is nothing really happens. It is a compilation of the misfortunes of a mother attempting to raise her two young children, intertwined with Mason’s experience as a child with no solid father figure to guide him. Linklater makes ordinary life into something gripping. Filmed over twelve years, it is also interesting to spot the cultural and political references.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Some might question if this is truly a coming of age film, following the life of a mother, after her son Kevin commits a school shooting. But it also explores the events in Kevin’s childhood and the months leading up to the atrocity, as the mother tries to reconcile her memories with the reality of what happened. This is a topic that is rarely touched upon in the media and, while it is a relatively difficult film to watch, it is also an important perspective to explore.

Fishtank

A British film, with a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Fishtank follows the life of Mia Williams (Katie Jarvis), a teenager struggling to deal with her mother’s new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender), while she attempts to pursue her passion for dance.

Mean Creek

Starring Rory Culkin, brother of Macaulay Culkin, this is an independent psychological drama that explores bullying and peer pressure. It also features Josh Peck, of Drake and Josh fame, and is available on Netflix. Go forth and binge!

Thirteen

This film stars Nikki Reed and Evan-Rachel Wood and arguably launched the careers of both actresses. The film deals with all the classic plot points of the ‘coming of age’ genre: crime, drug abuse, sexual awakening, and self-harm, making for unmissable viewing.

Five very different films, each centred on the trials of teenage years. ‘Coming of age’ isn’t just an umbrella term for drippy films caught up in teenage drama. Instead, these films bombard the viewer with adversity, angst, and nostalgia.