Teen idle: cautionary tale takes bleak peek at youth

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The US entertainment news publication Variety reviewed the Latvian drama Modris Tuesday, lauding its “naturalistic portrait” and “empathy” for its ill-fated teenaged protagonist.

The magazine’s chief international film critic Peter Debruge called the debut film by Juris Kursietis a “tough-love Latvian drama” that “depicts the downward spiral of an apathetic teen desperately in need of a father figure.” It is currently screening at the San Sebastian Film Festival under the New Directors category.

Debruge gave high points to Kursietis for the “almost documentary-like approach, where the actors weren’t shown the entire script, and each of the unrehearsed, semi-spontaneous scenes take place in a single, dynamically handheld shot.” He went on to praise Kursietis’ film for using real locations rather than studio sets, “lending additional texture to its already grubby authenticity.”

Ultimately, the tough-love approach depicted by the film’s adult characters only serves to reinforce Modris’ decline into delinquency. As Debruge concludes:

“Although the details are particular to its Northern European setting, Modris could just as easily be transposed to an American inner city, where teens (especially minorities) frequently find themselves similarly overlooked by parents and the system. Is it someone else’s responsibility to steer Modris right, or simply a matter of bad luck that he doesn’t realize the consequences of passively drifting through life? In a downward-spiral story sure to frustrate those of more optimistic temperaments, Kursietis doesn’t offer answers, but he does an admirable job of raising questions.”

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