Review: Wasted on the Young (2013)

Zach (Alex Russell) and his two best friends are the rulers of their school. They don’t think anything can touch them and they live the life of girls, drugs, and parties. One night they lose control and now they are trying to keep it hush, but Zach’s stepbrother, Darren (Oliver Ackland) and his friend, Xandrie (Adelaide Clemens) are trying to show the world what really happened. Let the rumours spread.

Released in Australia back in 2010/2011, Wasted on the Young was met with mixed reviews, and now North America is getting it in 2013. I’ve never heard of the film, but I saw the striking cover art online and I had to find the movie, and I’m glad I did. This is one of the most striking and visually beautiful films I’ve seen in a long time, but it also packed a huge punch and was tied up with a message that is relevant to today’s society. We live in a society that lives on a crutch, and that crutch is technology. People rely on their computer or their smart phone these days, and no one can stay away from them. It is like technology is a drug, and humans are their slaves. Cyber bullying is shown and just how bad it can ruin a person. Although it could have been more delved into, what the film did do with this aspect was a nice touch. Bullying isn’t just physical anymore. The film slyly portrayed how technology can affect us as rumours spread and people trash talk one another. Technology is the way people can hide behind personas and do what they want, like they’re invincible. The lead bullies in the film live their lives this way, like their invincible. They don’t care who they hurt.

The movie starts off on the right track by introducing us to Darren and Xandrie (great name by the way), two high school students who are friends, but they obviously like one another. The film starts off as a cute high school romance about these two teenagers, and it works. Darren is a social outcast who likes to stay invisible, while Xandrie is this beautiful soul who raises money to help poor children in starving countries. Their chemistry is off the charts, and if the movie were just a romance film about these two teens, I’d be a happy person. Their moments are cute and rang true. They never felt cheesy or unrealistic. In fact the whole high school setting felt pretty realistic.

While Darren is the lead character, the heart of the film is truly the character of Xandrie. At the start of the film, Xandrie is happy and as sweet as you can be. She is the epitome of innocence and kindness, and has a bright smile to die for. She is the girl you want to date or be best friends with, but not sleep with. At a certain point in the movie, the hammer comes down, and everything changes. This one moment ruins people’s lives and Xandrie’s spirit is broken. Her downward spiral is a guttural experience that truly got to me. I just wanted to hug her and let her know she will be okay. I wanted to protect her.

This is all thanks to Adelaide Clemens, who gave a heart wrenching performance. She has to hit so many notes and she does it and then some. She was brilliant and to see her portray the decline of the sweet Xandrie as she loses it more and more, was a bleak experience. As Darren, Oliver Ackland is no slouch either. He is equally brilliant and I relished his more quiet moments, as he really showed so much focus. Every scene these two actors owned it, and with lesser actors, this film wouldn’t have worked at all. Their chemistry was through the roof and I so badly wanted them both to make it out okay in the end. Darren’s plot is an interesting one, as I never knew where he was going to go. He’s a fascinating character who was full of surprises and by the end I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do next. I must also add Ackland is a cute guy and is exactly my type! So he was very nice to look at. As Zach, Alex Russell is at his slimy best. He’s a douche bag who I wanted to see get his comeuppance. He doesn’t realize what he does to people, nor does he care. My favourite moments are when you see his more civil and loving moments, because they show he is a human. We are forced to see that he’s a despicable person, but he also has some love in him. That’s the scariest part about monsters. They’re human.

The movie also brings up the themes of witness and accomplice. Is there a line, or are they one in the same? The movie delves into this idea that if you’re around and you do nothing to stop it, you’re not just a witness, but you’re an accomplice. If you sit there and watch a boy get beaten and just laugh. You’re just as bad as the bully who’s a part of it. Whether you’re on a computer making fun of what happened, that still makes you a part of it, and I like how the film goes into this idea as well. The movie almost makes the audience an accomplice in what is going on, as we are forced to watch all of these acts but we are unable to stop them or control them. The film takes the idea of being an accomplice full circle in the finale.

Now if I don’t mention the technical aspects of the film, I’d be doing this film a disservice because visually this was a masterpiece. The director, Ben C. Lucas, has an amazing eye and I loved the way he played with colours. The way he presents technology is brilliant and he has a good handle on teenagers and how they act. He also has a brilliant cinematographer to back him up. This movie was art in motion. Some people say film doesn’t count as art, but look no further than this film. The music score also got the job done, with a lot of techno music being used.

Any flaws? Yeah, some. One of the bullies, Brook was overly irritating that I just wanted to punch him. Hard across the face. The two female bullies were too underdeveloped for my taste, as they didn’t really add much in the scheme of things. Another minor flaw is that the evolution of Darren and Xandrie didn’t feel gradual enough. I felt like they skipped some steps to get to the way they are in the end. More depth into that would’ve been nice. That might have helped the middle section, which did feel a bit muddled, like it was just meandering along to get to the end at some points. More emphasis should have been put on the two leads’ journeys. I also quite disliked how Clemens seemed to disappear for a long segment in the middle. Plus where were all the adults in the flick? I get that they were trying to show how adults don’t always notice what is going on with kids, but I had to really suspend my disbelief especially towards the end. Really, no teachers were around??? I won’t say anything else.

The ending took a bit for me to digest, as it didn’t seem that plausible, but I think I liked it. It wasn’t what I was expecting, so that’s something, but a part of me was hoping for something different. But in my opinion the film’s biggest sin, is how it was told. It wasn’t told in a total linear way. The storytelling was disjointed and for some films it works (such as 500 Days of Summer) but for Wasted on the Young, it does not work. The movie worked, but if told in a linear fashion, it would have worked so much more in my opinion.

Even with these flaws, I have to say I just watched an utterly brilliant movie about bullies, rumours, secrets, technology, and teenagers. Wasted on the Young boasted two amazing performances from Ackland and Clemens and had a distinct visual style. Clemens’ storyline is one that is bleak, and depressing. The movie had me fall in love with this character only for everything sweet to be stripped away. The movie shows just how cruel teenagers can be and how fast rumors can spread and ruin a person’s life. Any movie that involves me in such a way is doing something right.