12 And Holding (2006) – movie review

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Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Linus Roache, Annabella Sciorra, Jeremy Renner, Jayne Atkinson
Director: Michael Cuesta

It’s not easy being a twelve year-old in twenty-first century America – especially when you’ve just lost your best friend and childhood gang leader in a fire started by the neighbourhood bully.

In Michael Cuesta’s beautifully acted coming-of-age drama TWELVE AND HOLDING, we find three young people learning to cope with grief. The world they live in is comfortable with the language of loss – words and phrases like ‘closure’ and ‘coming to terms with bereavement’; indeed one of the children Meilee (Zoe Weizenbaum) even has a psychiatrist as a mother. Another remarks that ‘almost all a person’s problems are created by not coming to terms with the past’. But these three young people are not yet able to make sense of what has happened and how it will affect them.

For the dead boy’s twin Jacob (Conor Donovan), there is a mixture of guilt and a feeling that his parents would have preferred him to die, rather than his braver and more attractive sibling. Unknown to his parents, he befriends his brother’s killer and visits him regularly in his correctional facility. Friend Leonard (Jesse Camacho), ‘the fat kid at school’ discovers a lust for life and undergoes a transformation deciding, against his parent’s wishes, that he is going to change his diet and lose weight. For Meilee, living in a family without a father, the death of her friend causes her to look inside and find confidence in her abilities – and also to attempt her first seduction.

This film is about growing up and trying to move away from the world of the child. It is touching and at times uncomfortable. All three young actors deliver excellent performances and the plot twists are refreshingly unpredictable.

5 out of 6 stars