After years of being home schooled by hippie parents, Emerson is enrolled at his local high school. The intelligent and androgynous youth confounds his classmates and captures the attention...
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After years of being home schooled by hippie parents, Emerson is enrolled at his local high school. The intelligent and androgynous youth confounds his classmates and captures the attention of his English teacher. The teacher-student relationship leads to problems for everyone involved.Written by
odd but occasionally compelling tale of adolescence
What happens to people who are raised without conventional social boundaries? Emerson Thorsen (Aaron Webber) is a thirteen-year-old boy living with his aging hippie parents in rural Nova Scotia. Even though they clearly love their son, Roj (Robert Joy) and Kaya (Rebecca Jenkins) often act more like Emerson's pals than his parents (they have the annoying habit of querying him about his burgeoning sexuality). After years of home schooling, the sensitive, highly gifted Emerson is enrolled in the local middle school where he immediately stands out from the more conventional members of the student body who have no interest in discussing poetry or reading Shakespeare. Emerson not only has problems relating to the other pupils, but he develops a crush of sorts on his English teacher (Daniel MacIvor, who co-wrote the screenplay), a common enough occurrence, except that Emerson, so long shielded from the societal norms of the outside world, feels no compunction not to act on his feelings, creating complications for everyone involved.
Alternately touching and queasy, "Whole New Thing" is a generally sensitive coming-of-age tale that distinguishes itself with its novel setting and its unusual set of characters. The movie doesn't always feel like it knows where it's going, but that can be as much a recommendation for the film as a criticism of it. There are times when it seems as if it is going to go completely off the rails - particularly in the marital travails of Roj and Kaya - but it always manages to somehow right itself at the last minute. Only at the VERY last minute does it fail to do so, succumbing to an ending that is far too abrupt, upbeat and amicable for what has gone before.
The acting is strong, and there is just enough complexity in the characters and storytelling to make us suspect that MacIvor (who has directed a number of films of his own) and writer/director Amnon Buchbinder, should they choose to collaborate again, will do even more sophisticated work in the future. As it stands, this is a promising early effort for the filmmakers.
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