Coming-of-age mixed with small town Midwestern United States and throw in Catholicism for good measure. An interesting concoction. Lots of elements to build an interesting story on.
The hypocrisy of religion rears its ugly head here. Teenager Alice (Natalia Dyer – from television’s Stranger Things) lives in small town Iowa and has been brought up in a very Catholic environment. She attends a strict Catholic high school. Though the teachers, principal and Father Murphy (Timothy Simons – from television’s Veep) do their best to keep all the hormones in check.
In that regard, Alice is having a tough time. It all springs out of her ethics class in which masturbation is brought up. Then a rumour starts circulating about her and a boy which is not true. All this is topped off by spicy chat on AOL.
It seems like sex is everywhere around Alice. Things do not get better when she and her best friend Laura (Francesca Reale – from television’s Stranger Things) attend a mysterious weekend religious retreat. There Alice is distracted by things like her vibrating phone, a mop handle, Father Murphy’s computer, and the very cute Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz – The Half of It, Assassination Nation).
Freedom comes after she leaves the retreat with plenty of feelings of shame and confusion. It comes in the form of an older lesbian female (Susan Blackwell (The Post, The Comedian). Soon she understands a freedom she has never felt before; the freedom to be herself fully without the usual guilt.
Totally understand how this film won a Jury Prize at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival. Really fun! Plenty of 2000s nostalgia with the cell phones, references to the film Titanic, AOL chat rooms and the way the teens dress. Loads of relatable things for teenagers or those of us who have lived through that time period in life.
Director/screenwriter Karen Maine (Pbvious Child) keeps things simple and moving forward at a good clip. Though upon a superficial look you might think that this is a rather typical teenage film, but I am here to correct you. It is anything but. Quite original despite the fact that it deals with an oft used topic like teenage burgeoning sexuality. How many teen films deal with female masturbation? Precious few, if any. Importantly it shows that these sexual feelings are normal. That the adults and religion which try to stem the feelings are shown to be the ridiculous things here. That the shaming they are doing is the problem not the teens whose sexuality is awakening.