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'Nearing Grace'

That title's bad enough, but it gets worse when you realize that it's derived from two lead characters actually named Grace (Jordana Brewster) and Henry Nearing (Gregory Smith). That aside, this '70s-era teen romance from the director of Halloween II and the screenwriter of Mean Creek is a quietly effective number, a little like an '80s John Hughes movie without the laughs (not an insult in this case). With his mother dead, his brother a moronic hippie, and his dad (David Morse) an alcoholic biker, young Henry drops out of high school and finds himself romantically torn between the longtime platonic best friend who wants him (Ashley Johnson) and the dangerous rich girl (Brewster) who wants his body, but only between trysts with her lunkhead jock fiancé (Chad Faust). Yes, it culminates in a prom and a graduation speech, but the destination isn't really the point; cinematic youth has rarely seemed so convincingly uncertain, and Brewster could definitely drive a young guy crazy.

 
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