Review: Afterschool (2008)

I’m not sure I would have fared much better at a fancy boarding school!

Written By: Antonio Campos
Directed By: Antonio Campos

Kids these days are alienated, that much I think I know. The reason I say think is because I am no longer a kid, and try as I might I can not see the world through the eyes of a teenager. This truth leaves me unsure of how much depth truly is in Antonio Campos’ film. Afterschool is undoubtedly a film with something to say, but it speaks in such broad strokes that I had a hard time investing in what the film was saying.

The teens we get to see in Afterschool suffer from any number of problems. They are unsure about sex, they go to the wrong sources for inspiration. They are inundated with violent and sexual imagery. The authority figures they report to are shifty and most definitely not trustworthy. They experiment with drugs and they antagonize one another. These are but some of the issues that Mr. Campos attempts to breech with his film. He partially succeeds but he also fails a healthy amount of the time.

The reason Mr. Campos is able to succeed and fail at the same time is that the issues he touches upon do at times ring true. I could understand the troubles faced by the youths in Afterschool. In this way the film succeeds, I was able to identify with the idea of not trusting your authority figures, and so on and so forth. Failure rears its ugly head in the breadth of scope Mr. Campos attempts with Afterschool. He isn’t content with exploring a few issues, he has to explore every idea that he can associate with troubled youth. This leads to elements like that of the adults. Characters who are so broad that they become comical in their ineptitude. Yes, there are adults in positions of authority who are as inept as those we see in Afterschool. However, not every adult authority figure is inept, no matter how much Afterschool tries to put forth that notion.

The film that Afterschool reminded me of was Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park. For Afterschool that is not a good comparison, because thinking about Paranoid Park I was reminded of how Mr. Van Sant’s film is far superior in every possible way. I’m not going to say a lot about Paranoid Park, but the likeness is present and for me it was a case of Afterschool often seeming like a cheap knockoff.

Afterschool is a well made film and it manages to hit some high notes. It is haunting and effective at times, but too often it feels stretched far too thin. The teens we meet alienate themselves to the point of non-interest on my part. This wasn’t always the case, but I was non-interested in enough segments of the film for it to be a real problem. Antonio Campos has made a decent film in Afterschool, but its failures can’t be overlooked and the end product is too broad to have the impact it could have had otherwise.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: Afterschool (2008)

  1. I understand your qualms with the film, it certainly isn’t perfect, and definitely isn’t something for everyone – particularly it’s ridiculously slow moving pace – however, I remember when this film came out, and hunted it down vigorously for months on end to try and watch it, and though I came out of it being completely surprised, it was certainly in a good way. Glad that Ezra Miller is getting some recognition, film-wise, for his work as he is a solid actor in the making. Nice to know that he was actually in quite a few things after this, too.

    On the Gus van Sant note, I am a huge fan of his, and have been wanting to watch Paranoid Park for years! He captures the teenage/young adult mindset so perfectly, and if it is anything like Afterschool, I am surely going to like it.

    Nice review, by the way!

  2. Thanks, and hopefully you do end up liking Paranoid Park, it’s a favorite of mine.

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