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Do not let the title of this movie fool you. There movie has literally nothing to do with the first president of the United State. Set in a small poor town in the south (It never officially says in the movie but IMDB says North Carolina), this movie follows a small group of kids over the course of a few days in July.
The movie is focused predominantly young African-American children but does not highlight or address the issue of race as much as the issues of class. Often the scenes are of dilapidated or “seedy” places that I would never have thought appropriate to play in as a kid. The movie is a weird mix of documentary and short film. This combination leads to a non-traditional type of movie that will no doubt turn off a lot of people used to large budget films and blockbusters. The acting is less than great but as the average age of the main actors is about 14, I didn’t expect an Oscar winning performance. The script however does not address the youth of the actors and many times there were lines that seemed far to loaded with meaning.
As there is really only one major plot line to the movie, I do not want to discuss many of the details within the movie. However, the method in which David Gordon Green (writer and director) weaves the different kids lives together following a tragic event is an amazing thing to watch. The children do not have the life experiences needed to truly cope with loss. Additionally, as the characters have little to no parental supervision, watching how they each work through the loss/guilt is pretty amazing and heartwarming.
I was not sure how to review this movie so I turned to a few other reviews online to get a better grasp for a true point of view. On one hand I felt drawn to the characters and the plight of growing up in an impoverished town. On the other hand, the film has a plot that is less than fluid and the movie is really a series of short character studies and not a fluid movie. When it came to me finally writing this review I decided to weight my love of the cinematography and the highly original character development and overlook the lack of a traditional plot line and a proper script.
By the end of the movie you get a sense of warmth that you often don’t come close to with the average coming-to-age movie. At first attempt to find similar movies to recommend, I wanted to list the american classic “Stand by Me” but it felt like too easy of a connection. Instead I went with three movies that may be completely new to you. I do warn that both “Water Lilies” and “The Virgin Suicides” are in no way child appropriate and may be considered offensive to some due to the adult content but both have amazingly powerful stories that deserve your attention.
You may also find the following coming of age movies enjoyable: