No longer just light fare about puppy love and party laughs, teen movies have evolved into a rich and thoughtful genre that includes some of the most anticipated titles at TIFF.
Teenagers may get a bad rep, but their issues make for some of the most compelling stories on screen. Beyond the nostalgia factor, youth marks a time when we’re first grappling with life-defining issues around sexuality and identity, all rich fodder for a great story. There’s a plethora of youth-focused films this year at the Toronto International Film Festival that deal with issues like drug addiction, sexuality and racism. It’s an important moment for the genre, especially at a time when teenagers are being forced to grow up faster than ever.
Today marks the world premiere of Beautiful Boy, the highly anticipated new film that follows a father who is struggling against his son's methamphetamine addiction. It’s one of the most buzzed about films at the festival, likely because fans of Call Me By Your Name still have Timothee Chalamet fever — we can’t wait to see the young Oscar-nominee’s latest performance.
Here are the must-watch TIFF titles that put teen issues front and centre:
Based on a pair of memoirs (“Beautiful Boy” and “Tweak”) written by a father and son, David and Nic Sheff, this biographical drama follows Nic (Timothee Chalamet), a teenage boy from a good family who is introduced to alcohol and drugs at a young age. This escalates into a methamphetamine addiction, changing the course of Nic and his family’s lives. We’re expecting another Oscar-caliber performance from both Chalamet and Steve Carell, who plays his father.
Fresh off the buzz from its World Premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, Boy Erased is already being called one of the best films of the year. Based on the memoir by Garrard Conley, the film follows Jared, the teenage son of a Baptist minister, who is outed as gay. His parents send him to Refuge, a church-supported conversion camp that aims to “cure” Jared of his homosexuality. Here, Jared learns that it’s not him who needs healing, but everyone else who views his sexuality as a disease. We expect great things from Lucas Hedges in this role -- based on his moving performances as a conflicted young man in films like like Manchester by the Sea and Lady Bird.
Amandla Stenberg is rapidly becoming a strong voice of her generation, and her role as Starr Carter in The Hate U Give will undoubtedly further reinforce her place. The film tackles police brutality and racism, and places the weight of these issues on a teenage girl who witnesses her black friend being shot by a police officer. Starr is forced to make a decision, facing pressure from everyone around her to keep silent, but knowing that she’s the only person who can stand up for what is right. The Hate U Give promises a complex look at a teenager facing unimaginable adversity, anchored in a career-making performance from one of our most promising young actresses.
Our teenage years are all about figuring out who we are, and Giant Little Ones masterfully takes on the nuances of growing up and self-discovery. When Franky experiences an unexpected sexual encounter at his birthday party, it shakes up his life in ways that make him question his sexuality, his identity, and the people around him. We’re here for films like Giant Little Ones that explore teenage sexuality in an honest and profound way.
Other promising teen titles at the festival include Where Hands Touch, Firecrackers, Ben is Back, Girl, Fig Tree, mid90s, and Phoenix.
Here are some other noteworthy teen movies you can watch right now! Check out these titles available to buy or rent at the Cineplex Store!
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