June 29, 2018 Don’t Grow Up (Movie Review)
The world around them has gone to Hell in an instant, and it’s no longer safe to be anything but young. In fact, in the newest Magnolia Pictures offering, Don’t Grow Up, your strongest asset in your survival arsenal is your age! Be prepared to stay forever young as of Tuesday, July 3, 2018, when the film arrives to Blu-ray, DVD, Combo Pack and Digital HD.
On Northland Island, tragedy has struck seemingly within an instant, and some kind of virus has caused all the adults to absolutely lose their minds, turning into violent zombie-like versions of themselves who are killing all of the children. Under these most dire of circumstances, quite possibly the best thing that anyone could be is an orphaned ward of the state with no familial ties.
Lucky for six young inhabitants of the St. Madeleine Youth Center, they are just this. Here, selfish Liam (McKell David: Montana 2014, iBoy 2017) brags of his rich upbringing and thinks he’s the de facto leader of the gang, while, for May (Natifa Mai: The Interceptor 2015, Shoot Me. Kiss Me. Cut! 2015), who is in love with him, perhaps that is indeed the case.
In happier news, today is her 18th birthday and the entire gang want to celebrate with some alcohol and joints, even quiet Thomas (Diego Méndez: Tengo una tortuga short 2011, Mi primer beso short 2014) and unsuspecting Shawn (Darren Evans: Submarine 2010, The Fifth State 2013). Then there’s May’s best friend, Pearl (Madeleine Kelly in her acting debut), the youngest of the group, who wants to drink herself silly while flirting with the boys. Last, but not least, is Bastian (Fergus Riordan: Fragile 2005, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 2011), who would rather do laundry than celebrate with the group. Haunted by his traumatic past with an alcoholic father, he is turned off by the bottles of liquor and maintains his mature distance.
When the sextet decide to head out of the home to explore the surrounding city, it quickly becomes apparent that something truly catastrophic has happened in town. After all, behind the safe walls of the Youth Center, none of them truly understood what had happened to all of the adults, but now it has become abundantly clear. Under these dire, apocalyptic conditions, how many of the six can survive to make it off the island and back to the safety of civilization?
Clocking in at 78 minutes in-length, Don’t Grow Up was directed by Thierry Poiraud (The Wild Heels 1995, Black Spot series) and written by Marie Garel-Weiss (The Return of James Battle 2004, The Party’s Over 2017). The film is billed as a blend of Drama, Horror, and Sci-Fi, and is indeed all of these things. While the premise here is steeped heavily in Sci-Fi/Horror, the film plays out more like an intense Drama and conjures to mind such films as 1990’s Lord of the Flies and, most recently, other apocalyptic teen Dramas such as 2017’s We All Fall Down; which, ultimately, just means that the horror here is embedded in the situation and not gratuitous gore.
The success of Don’t Grow Up relies heavily upon its cast, who, despite all being young, do a stellar job with their eclectic range of characters. The clear standout here is Riordan, who receives top-billing for his performance of the well-rounded Bastian, the survivor of a horrific family tragedy. Bastian is initially one of the more background characters but evolves toward prominence as the film develops, and rightfully so; he has the most intriguing background and is the most fleshed-out character in the pack. Riordan portrays the intricacies of his character with a practiced ease and a mature solemnity, bolstering the entire production.
Kelly, as Pearl, is solid in her role, though her character remains a bit flat. Others fair better, such as David, as Liam, who, as a boy convinced of his own delusions and sporting a chip on his shoulder, has much material to glean from. His performance is on par with Riordan and provides much of the backstory for the ending of the film – so pay attention. Mai, Méndez, and Evans all do their best with what they are given, though their characters are largely cannon fodder for the greater good of the story.
Shot on location in the Canary Islands (Spain), Don’t Grow Up is an intriguing tale, one that is engaging and enjoyable – with a wonderfully intense, original musical score – though it ultimately lacks in staying power. Which, in short, just means that you will find yourself engrossed in the tale throughout its runtime, eyes glued to the screen to see what fate will become these troubled teens, but you might not still be discussing the film two weeks later. Although, some haunting questions are raised herein – particularly, “What makes someone an adult?” – that are certainly worthy and inspiring of a good conversational debate.
Whatever the case, Don’t Grow Up is a solid offering into the teen apocalyptic subgenre and definitely worth some popcorn. Refusing to grow up and, therefore, remaining safe from the apocalypse, CrypticRock give Don’t Grow Up 3.5 of 5 stars.