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LAFF Review YOUR OWN ROAD

2017
Directed By: Brandon Buczek
Starring: Ashton Moio, Amir Malaklou, and Cortney Palm



Post-college graduation wanderlust has been the subject of more films than I can name. It's a strange time when everyone around you is starting to get jobs, make plans, and look ahead. This is the time of settling. A time when young men and women are told to grow up and relinquish their dreams in the hope that they too may one day be just like mom and dad.

Filled with the vigor of youth and facing the looming prospect of joining his dad's company, Brian (Ashton Moio) is determined to carve out his own path and follow his dreams. He recently graduated film school and can't seem to find work in his hometown. He's bombed several interviews and is continually put on the pile of "if something opens up" candidates. Most of us have been put on that pile at some point or another and I don't think I know a single person has received a callback six months down the road.

The only option Brian sees is to take his dad's station wagon and head out west and make his dreams a reality. His overly cautious best friend Dan (Amir Malaklou) is persuaded to join him after his girlfriend breaks up with him. In one of the most honest moments of the film, Dan invites his next door neighbor Ally (Cortney Palm) along for the ride. Dan wanted to brag that he was taking this trip and never expected her to agree to come along. He goes from cocky and self-assured to wobbly and nervous in a moment. I couldn't help but relate to the presumptuous and apprehensive young man as he got in over his head.

Yes, you've seen films like this before but the small human moments are what make it unique. There are scenes where the actors telegraph what they are feeling through their words but the truly powerful flashes come when we see how they feel through their actions. The screenplay goes back and forth between leading the audience and asking them to lead. We are never hand held to the point where we can feel the manipulation of the filmmaker, nor are we left on our own asking "what the hell" is going on. Films about coming of age can easily fall into sanctimonious dribble while we watch each actor take their turn on the soapbox, making their pronouncements about what it means to let go of youth and become an adult.

YOUR OWN YOUTH has moments that get close to preachy but Buczek never allows his film to go off the rails. He maintains a delicate balance. Exploring the challenges of growing up in suburban America without distancing us from his characters. You see, it's really easy to hate privileged middle-class kids who are bitching about not being heard. The characters in this world are grounded enough that you feel empathy for them and want them to succeed. Or at the very least you want them to figure out what success is.

In the end, YOUR OWN ROAD is a film about determination in finding your way. It's about living up to your own expectations and defining the type of person you will be. Experience, upbringing, insecurity, and location be damned, this is a film about not allowing outside forces to define you. I'm sure you could have put that together from the title but it's worth stating because of how well Buczek lands it.


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