Faced with adolescent skateboarders in an atrophied suburban desert town, how do moviegoers not brace for the worst? With the entire filmography of Harmony Korine, the Jackass legacy, and Stacy Peralta's Dogtown and Z-Boys all extolling the sorrowful but ass-kicking doom of youth adrift, which nightmare algorithm of drug use, violence, and sexual peril are the kids (and viewers) in for? Fortunately, Only the Young is a lush beauty of a documentary whose youth face the danger of un-coolness: They skateboard for Jesus and dress up as twin Gandalfs. The leads are appealing and funny. Garrison is a smiley charmer with adorable dork edge; Kevin is soulful and intense, a boy who wears his heart right on his face; Skye is an assertive young woman whose dry observations about the guys make her a keen audience surrogate. All have lousy poker faces, so we feel the threats tugging at their equilibrium, the social stigmas, and the difficulties in building any relationships, platonic or not. The doc trades some of its prelapsarian magic for social realism when it examines Skye's difficult family situation. Skye deserves her own movie: She's resourceful, sagacious, and understandably frustrated with the kid preoccupations of her two compatriots. Only the Young captures the lyricism of late childhood and the bewilderment of the road ahead. As for the skate footage, it's shot for pure glory and for all the world, like Wild China or Blue Planet, beautiful beings struggling in exotic habitats: abandoned houses, red-gold bluffs, and run-down mini-golf courses.
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