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To show the sufferings of adolescence in a film, sometimes less is more. From a stripped-down approach in which the dialogues are the protagonists to a story that starts from science fiction with a naive touch to explore hard themes, The following independent productions put the magnifying glass on complex stories and try not to go unnoticed in the vast universe of films based on children’s literature.

side effects of love
side effects of loveAmazon Prime Video

Based on the novel Our Chemical Hearts, by Krystal Sutherland, the film written and directed by Richard Tanne (whose debut feature is the excellent Southside with You, centered on the first date of Barack Obama and the then young Michelle Robinson) is overflown by a melancholic tone that is reinforced by the photography work of Albert Salas. The film shows the collision between Henry (Austin Abrams) y Grace (Lily Reinhart), two teenagers who attend the same high school but start to talk about a common point: they both aspire to become writers and they are chosen to collaborate with the school newspaper. Although the news has an important meaning for the life -somewhat taciturn- of Henry, who seems to go through adolescence without fully enjoying it, for Grace it is directly a punishment. In this way, the true interest of the film is exposed: to gradually show how a tragedy suffered by the young woman can have serious implications without an adequate framework of containment.

Therefore, the chemical referred to in the title of the book (and of the film in its original language) is not only related to what produces love from a more rational than emotional point of view, but also with mental health illnesses, one of the great topics in which the film delves into without cheap shots. Despite the fact that Tanner finds it impossible to avoid commonplaces of a genre that starts from fiction young adult (from mention to music indie with Beach House, quotes from famous authors such as Pablo Neruda, even those walks where the characters discover themselves in silence), its protagonists elevate the material, especially Abrams, who had excelled with his secondary work in Paper cities, and that from then on ratified his enormous talent also on TV, in series like This Is Us Y Euphoria.

Available on Amazon Prime Video.

Violet y Finch
Violet y FinchNetflix

In Violet y Finch the rules of the universe also coexist young adult (The film takes as its base material the novel by Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places) with two actors who shine in their respective roles: the already consolidated Elle Fanning and that rising star that is Justice Smith, one of the most attractive points of the series Generation. Brett Haley’s drama begins with a chance meeting between its protagonists, one much darker than the one in Side effects of love. Violet suffers from depression due to the death of her sister in a car accident and Finch is the one who, initially, helps her to get ahead, rejecting the advice of her group of friends, who see the young woman as a outsider in that microclimate in which one lives for appearances. Yes the novel is a direct heir to the work of John Green, a fusion of Looking for Alaska with Under the same star and the mystery that surrounds Paper cities, the film cleverly gets rid of the redundancy of some passages and decides not to betray the essence of those young people who meet not necessarily at the right time, but in which they can support each other.

The most devastating sequences of the film come when Violet and Finch -who rediscover Indiana through its little secret corners- violently verbalize the discomfort they suffer from not talking about the past. At this point, Niven, co-writer with the great Liz Hannah, walk a tightrope having to enter rough terrain and, simultaneously, tell a love story where innocence also prevails. As a consequence, they never hide that ehe film will not tie all the dots perfectly nor that its protagonists will not be able to deal with conflicts without winding paths ahead, a narrative decision that makes Violet y Finch, as distressing as it may be, don’t appeal to sugarcoating but to a much more honest and genuine story.

Available on Netflix.

The map of the perfect moments
The map of the perfect momentsAmazon Prime Video

The map of the perfect moments It is also a melancholic film, but it is moving using comedy and science fiction as main genres, and then turns towards reflections on life in which the dramatic tint predominates. The first point that Ian Samuels’ film has in its favor is its self-awareness. The film knows that it is not working on unknown terrain, and immediately begins to make references to productions that started from the same premise, such as The Groundhog Day Y On the edge of tomorrow. Interestingly, the feature film has, in terms of its tone, more points of contact with Palm Springs, de Max Barbakow, only that here the adolescents are the protagonists. Mark (Kyle Allen) and Margaret (Kathryn Newton, the revelation of Big Little Lies Y The Society) they are stuck in a time loop that leads them to experience the same day over and over again. Mark does not seem to be too concerned about the phenomenon he suffers from until he meets Margaret, who carries a personal conflict on her shoulders that ends up being the key for this story to distance itself from her cocktail of influences.

What makes the film written by Lev Grossman different -and based on his own work- is how it gives a voice to those teenagers who, whether or not they are in that loop that momentarily distracts them, still suffer from situations to which adults they are not paying too much attention to them. Mark and Margaret’s talks about their respective problems feel so authentic because of the sadness that lies beneath, and because of their difficulty in dealing with everything they would rather pretend doesn’t exist. Therefore, despite the inevitable anguish generated by certain situations that we will not reveal, The map of the perfect moments clings to the luminous so that everyday life and its volatility hurt a little less.

Available on Amazon Prime Video.

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