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Afterschool
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Afterschool – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

When we first meet Rob (Miller), he’s a lonely, teenaged virgin, with low self-esteem, few friends at his boarding school and a good internet connection.
His only joys are watching uploaded mobile-phone video clips and doing what sex-starved young boys do in front of porn websites.
As part of an attempt to clamp down on trouble-makers, the school makes all the kids get involved in afterschool activities and Rob gets paired up with the beautiful and sympathetic Amy (Timlin) in a video project.
While Rob is messing around with the video camera, he happens to be filming an empty school hallway when the most popular girls in school both burst through a door and collapse dead of a drugs overdose.
As Rob’s the only witness to their deaths, the authorities take a keen interest in him, but he’s more concerned with the fact that after he shares an intense moment with Amy, she seems to be taking a keen interest in his no-good roommate.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This is a teen drama from a first-time film-maker who’s only recently out of his teens himself.
It’s the kind of film that if it was made by a mature, acclaimed director, people would probably call it a masterpiece, but coming from a first timer, it’s caught somewhere between pretentious and low-budget sparseness.
Most of the shots are long, static and unedited, with characters walking in and out of frame – half the time, moving so far off mic that you have to strain to hear the dialogue.
One of the big problems with this films, rather than it’s “emperor’s new clothes” style, is the fact that there’s not a single sympathetic character in the film – Rob is a creepy, selfish, sexually aware, introvert, his room-mate is a bolshy, over-confident drug dealer, Amy is a two-timing sex-kitten, the teachers are smarmy, the rest of the school fawn over the shallow prom-queen twins whose deaths form the narrative core of the film.
There’s not a single person to like – to root for. There’s little story and what plot there is – high school students feeling betrayed by their first love, drug abuse in the school dorm – has been seen many times before – as has the self-referential film-making metaphor.
There comes a point towards the end of the film when Rob shows the head-teacher his tribute to the dead girls. It’s bad – but not in a profound or comical way. It’s just dull, poorly shot and edited.
How self-confident must Campos be to show us a film within a film which is meant to be immeasurably bad, when actually, it’s no worse than the film we’re being asked to watch?
It’s like he’s challenging us to hate his film, like the teacher hates Rob’s. But the teacher can take the rushes and give them to another pupil – Rob’s project is salvageable. We don’t get the same chance with Campos’s film.

Opens nationwide on 21st August 2009

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