With a dab of Juno and Scott Pilgrim to it, we check out My Summer As A Goth, an intriguing coming of age story.
My Summer As a Goth is embarrassing. Not to the filmmakers, but to this lapsed goth, with moments so reminiscent of my youth I nearly disappeared in a heap of velvet-torn fishnets and kohl-rimmed shame. It follows grieving teen Joey, dealing with the prospect of a summer staying with her grandparents while her estranged mother is away. Prone to sarcastic comebacks and gallows humour, Joey is on the lookout for a rebellion – which arrives in the form of Victor, the goth next door. He makes Joey his pet project, with a little help from his friends, black lace and hair dye. Joey quickly immerses herself in the lifestyle, dancing on graves, staying out and letting her new friends lead.
The film has its issues stylistically. There’s a hint of inspiration from other teen films such as Juno and Scott Pilgrim, but the lack of visual continuity and clarity weakens it and leads to confusion. Dialogue occasionally feels forced, and the voiceover at the end is clunky, if well meant. Victor and his friends are styled as uncaring, unfaithful, humourless and predominantly white (not just from makeup), and it’s best to view the film as a depiction of pretentious teenagers and their relationships rather than an accurate portrayal of the goth community: an eyeliner-heavy coming-of-age story.
Coming-of-age stories and the theme of identity are interwoven. Joey’s identity fluctuates due to Victor’s influence, and characters who are more certain of their own identities feel far stronger and present on screen. Jack Levis brings Victor to life as the beautiful, narcissistic boy who some of us knew in our teens: nice to look at, but poisonous. Victor strews the film with red flags almost every time he’s on screen. It’s a situation many will be all too familiar with. Natalie Shershow accurately portrays the confusion and emotional turmoil of someone experiencing it from the inside.
While the film struggles to balance goth elements and Joey’s relationship, its goal is to warn about signs of toxic relationships. While it misses a few beats, My Summer As A Goth is a coming-of-age story, and a warning to not let someone else change you, no matter how wonderful they seem.
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