Edwing is a fairly typical kid with his own problems and dreams. As bullying and ostracizing rise, he feels less and less understood and has a hard time figuring where he belongs. The anxiety and loneliness pushes him to go along with his best friend Fluke’s plan.
Based on the novel by Jim Shepard, the film is written by Shepard with Brett Haley and directed by Vincent Grashaw who together create a film where the lead’s emotions come through nicely and teenage life’s struggles are on clear display. The characters created are well-written and brought to the screen, their plights look and feel very real. The story rendered on screen is depressing and dark and for the most part works. The two boys’ plan is not all that well thought out but that is expected with young teens. The way this goes and the reasoning behind it feel like it’s short-changing the situation and its effects on people. The intentions in showing this and how they get there are good but something feels like it’s missing. What comes before that has more emotional impact so it feels incomplete on that front during and after the main event.
The lead for And Then I Go is young actor Arman Darbo as Edwin who does emotional and touching work. His acting is nuanced and fascinating to watch showing a natural ability for deep acting and showing an ability beyond his years. Playing his mother with care is actress Melanie Lynskey who, as has been her usual of late, gives a touching, nuanced, and very human performance. Her motherly despair at her son’s anguish comes across strongly and clearly. She’s the grounding adult performance that creates a connection for the viewer emotionally. The rest of the cast, including Sawyer Barth as Fluke, Justin Long as Tim, and Kannon Hicks as Gus, does good work but Darbo and Lynskey are the true standouts in terms of performances and connection with the audience.
These characters are filmed with cinematography by Patrick Scola who frames things in ways where they look and feel personal. The images don’t shy away from the emotions, honing in on them instead, giving an unflinching look at the emotions without going in exploitative territory. The film is definitively a teenage and family drama and could have easily fallen in a more family movie look but it maintains a more serious drama style.
And Then I Go is a competent teenage angst and despair drama seen across a more adult lens that puts across characters emotions clearly and in a manner that connects with the audience. However, it short changes one of its main issues by making it mostly because of bullying instead of digging deeper in what causes such events. Things are over-simplified here, robbing lead actor Arman Darbo of a part that could have been even more impactful. It’s an important film at the moment but it seems to stay away from truly going for the goal and exploring all that needs to be explored.