“Ah, these kids today!”
It’s the collective sigh huffed by every adult generation in history: our youth have no respect, no direction, no values. Fortunately examples like Only the Young (Oscilloscope Laboratories), the debut feature-length documentary from Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, remind us that today’s teenagers are more than pop-cultured iPhone zombies—that perhaps they’re even human, and not so hopeless, considering the world they’re growing up in.
Only the Young follows skateboarders Garrison and Kevin as they navigate their high school years in a small town outside of Los Angeles. Thanks to the rapport the filmmakers earn with the boys, we’re able to roll right along with them—to an abandoned house, to the skatepark, and into their homes and their social circle. We meet Skye, who as the boys’ cohort, confidante, and sometimes-girlfriend becomes an integral character in the film herself.
Their dyed hair and punk rock T-shirts notwithstanding, the three are conventional youngsters in many ways. They’re well-behaved and unpretentious, active in their church’s youth group, and come from two-parent homes (though Skye’s grandparents are raising her). But the positive forces in their lives can’t completely shelter them from the realities of twenty-first century America; their neighborhoods are hit hard by the 2008 economic meltdown, and we’re left wondering how kids like these—who show so much promise, if the opportunities are there—will fare in tomorrow’s job market.
Overall, a smart, refreshing look at the teenagers we don’t often hear about, that avoids jumping to conclusions in favor of letting its subjects reveal themselves to us at their own pace.
BONUS! The library's copy of Only the Young includes another documentary, Tchoupitoulas.
Click here to see all the great Oscilloscope movies the library offers.