The New Kid: Welcome to the teen world
by Fabien Lemercier
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2015: Rudi Rosenberg’s debut feature film is a breath of fresh air, a very realistic comedy about entering adolescence
Very often, and increasingly so as a result of rather exaggerated marketing strategies, films place adolescence at the heart of their plots, and tend to either be big popular comedies in which not a lot of effort has been made at injecting any kind of finesse (at their best, well-presented ‘vintage’ revivals based on bestselling youth literature) or feature films labelled as ‘arthouse’ which delve into relatively dramatic scenarios. With his debut feature film, The New Kid [+see also:
interview: Rudi Rosenberg
film profile], which is being premiered in the New Directors section of the 63rd San Sebastian Film Festival, Rudi Rosenberg succeeds, with careful attention to detail, in evading these regimented fates, with a film that is emotive without reducing you to tears and funny without taking the easy way out. By reproducing the world of children entering adolescence in a very simple way and incorporating a series of minor everyday occurrences that are overwhelmingly significant at that age, the director (who wrote the story himself), hits his target perfectly, making us empathise with his young ‘anti-heroes and their desire to be normal in a way that is very refreshing and doesn’t try to teach us a lesson, but isn’t void of meaning either. As deep down, the complications involved in integrating oneself into a group – the subject matter dealt with by the film with the story of Benoît (Rephaël Ghrenassia) starting at a new school in Paris – simply offer a pre-emptive, albeit harsh, glimpse of the adult world in which avoiding drawing attention to yourself is not always easy.
Benoît is 13 tears-old and as normal as can be. He’s a bit shy and wants to make friends so that he can stop worrying about where to sit in the school canteen and wandering around on his own in the playground between pre-established groups of friends. But how? Should be try to attach himself to the ‘popular kids’ who make fun of him? Try and get on with the misfits? Have a party? Follow the crowd or make jokes? So many crucial questions for the young teenager who also has a crush on a pretty Swedish girl. Moments of jubilation, huge disappointments, small betrayals and pettiness, fits of laughter and half-baked ploys: all the touching awkwardness that comes with this age passes through the very likeable filter of the director, who brings together and directs an excellent cast of young actors (Joshua Raccah, Géraldine Martineau, Guillaume Cloud Roussel, Joahanna Lindstedt and Etyan Chiche) supported by Max Boublil in the only real adult role.
Under the guise of a classic teen movie, The New Kid plays to its own discretely original tune and makes for very pleasant viewing. It is entertaining but by no means lacks underlying relevance, playing on common archetypes whilst sticking close to reality, inducing rather than forcing a positive state of mind. This wealth of qualities surface over the duration of the film and make it one to watch at the box office, along with the career of its director over time.
(Translated from French)