Ben X the Best Teen Movie Since Donnie Darko
The best movie I've seen about teen angst since Donnie Darko comes from Belgium? It's also the best film about a bullied teen with Asperger's Syndrome that I've seen from any country, and its blurred life-into-vidgame fantasy sequences makes it seem doubly topical. Ben (Greg Timmermans) spends waaay too much time logged onto a multi-user fantasy role-playing game, but what other consolation does he have in life? His peers torment him; girls won't look his way; and his divorced parents seem powerless to help. On-screen, however, his pimple-faced avatar smites rival warriors and wins a comely princess (whose braces make her resemble a certain girl from his high-school class). Timmermans looks too old for his character, whose past-tense voiceovers portend a certain ominous, Columbine-style denouement, but director Nic Balthazar—adapting his own novel—has carefully constructed Ben X so that its twist ending isn't borrowed or cheap. And the barrage of screen graphics, text messages, and cell-phone videos speaks to modern teens' isolation-in-connectivity. "2 late 2 heal," Ben texts his vidgame paramour. You don't have to be Belgian to know that feeling.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.