LA Film Festival 2017 Review: And Then I Go
And Then I Go is one of the most uncomfortably realistic films I’ve ever seen, which is also one of my highest compliments. That moment when you forget you are watching a piece of fiction, convinced that the events you’re witnessing are actually happening is one of the rare beauties of the cinema, even if the subject matter is tough to swallow. Violence, bullying, revenge, and relationships with your family are the constant themes throughout Vincent Grashaw’s heavy drama, that shouldn’t be missed by anyone of any age.
Based on the novel Project X, And Then I Go follows two junior high students who are relentlessly bullied by their peers. Edwin, (Arman Darbo), a socially awkward, misunderstood seventh grader who, deep down, has a heart of gold. Edwin’s best friend, Flake, (Sawyer Barth) is rougher around the edges, to say the least. Both of their childhood relationships with one another, along with the misunderstandings brought by their own respective families, are put to the test, as they debate on what kind of revenge to take on their peers.
And Then I Go is not a movie for the faint of heart. This isn’t due to excessive violence or gore, but the subject matter and shockingly nuanced performances by both Darbo and Barth. Newcomer Arman Darbo is brilliant as the morally confused teen. His approach to the character of Edwin is a performance that shouldn’t be unnoticed. The pain, anger, and frustration in his face and vocal tones brought me back to those junior high school years, and the inevitable bullying most have encountered at least once in their lifetime.
Throughout the narrative, Edwin struggles with maintaining a decent relationship with his parents, while also contemplating the horrid act of violence that his best friend brought to his attention. Every time Edwin shows up at Flake’s house at 1:30 am, we as the audience, are filled with utter tension and anguish. I found myself saying out loud multiple times, “don’t do it,” to the troubled teen soul. When a film can cause this much realism to the audience watching it, so much that you don’t see it as a work of fiction anymore, it’s a rare achievement.
Sawyer Barth is haunting as Flake. When we first meet him, Barth is timid and scared, yet unstable with his roller coaster of emotions. He’s definitely the more eccentric out of the two leads, never overacting or going overboard with the mannerisms of someone in this particular situation. Though you don’t want to see Flake make this terrible decision, the emotional investment is always focused on Edwin, making Flake more of a puppet master by the film’s end.
What I found genuinely profound about this story is that nothing is ever glorified, or makes these children seem like “victims.” Yes, they are being bullied, which is something I have a personal emotional weight to, however you don’t pity them either. Internal struggle is always a tough character trait to portray on screen as an actor, let alone child actors.
The rest of the performances go under the radar, said for Melanie Lynskey as Edwin’s worried mother, who unlike his father (Justin Long), genuinely thinks something is wrong with her child. I do give the film credit for portraying realistic family situations, and how fathers and mothers deal with their children differently behind closed doors.
What I will say is that And Then I Go feels a bit too convenient at times, taking me out of the film’s realistic nature. I mean, no one notices their thirteen-year-old child leaving every night at 1 am for weeks or playing with their newly purchased gun collection? More than a few of these scenarios came about, which caused some brief pauses and “really?” moments in an otherwise exceptional film.
As I said, And then I Go is not an easy film to watch. It’s actually quite uncomfortable to get through. I can’t see myself ever watching this again, however, I do think this is a movie that teenagers need right now. This should be shown to middle and high school students, parents, and teachers alike. It’s a brutally heavy story, with exceptional performances that will stay with you for days after the final scene fades to black.
And Then I Go premiered at the 2017 LA Film Festival on June 16th, 2017