Frameline 36: The Wise Kids
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Messages are quiet and deep in Stephen Cone's brilliantly sweet coming-of-age drama about being gay and Southern Baptist in middle-class Charleston, South Carolina. Best friends Brea, Tim and Laura are getting ready for college-Tim has plans for film school at NYU; and Brea, the preacher's daughter, wonders where school will take her as she grapples with serious questions of her faith. Laura, the most enthusiastically Christian of the group, wants to attend a Christ-centered college, and this starts to drive a wedge between the friends.
They might know their life is cloistered and that there's more out there in the world than Easter pageants and Sunday services. But this is a gorgeously realized, complex story where the safeties of home and hearth are not so stifling that they rebel-these kids are quietly grateful for their lives and their parents. As Tim grapples with his homosexuality and coming out, his close friends and relatives react in different ways. There is no grand explosive moment or any easy "bad guys" in the film. Refreshingly, characters change with subtlety and are tenderly portrayed in various shades of grey.
So reverent as to change minds in religious communities and so sincere as to appeal to questioning teens, The Wise Kids wants to do right by its characters and its premise. At its heart, the film examines the confusing and wondrous space between high school and college, youth and adulthood-when questions far surpass answers.
- SARA MARIA VIZCARRONDO