I just got back from a Sydney Film Festival screening of Wasted on the Young. I hadn’t planned on it, but I got back from Welcome to the Space Show and felt I should at least try to expand my borders a little. With less than an hour before lights-down I ordered the bloody ticket and hurried towards company HQ to get it printed.
I won’t pretend to be well-cultured - I’ve never heard of director Ben Lucas, nor any of the cast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an arty French movie, nor do I drink decaf soy-lattes (at least not in public). I can, however, say with some confidence that Wasted on the Young is a good film.
The setting is undeniably Australian, but at the same time could be anywhere. The premise is nominally foreign to me, but feels disturbingly familiar and wholly believable. This resonance makes it difficult for me to describe just what I feel about the film. I sympathised with, and was completely drawn in by our protagonist, Darren. Sharing similar motivations and values, the sense of despair at dealing with a rotten and unjust world was palpable.
Wasted on the Young delivers an often-violent portrayal of social hierarchy in a rarefied elitist setting, and the film’s cast is uniformly superb. It’s easy to forget that this isn’t real, and I found myself breaking into brief applause when Darren finally managed to put the boot into one of his social upperclassmen. I’m fortunate enough to have had a comparatively straightforward high-school career, but I do know someone like the alpha-male antagonists in the film.
As someone who isn’t one of them, it’s hard to detail the exact nature of my seething resentment for such people. It’s certainly not envy for their successes. Perhaps it’s the helplessness at trying to deal with someone so seemingly untouchable, coupled with the fact that they behave like complete arseholes even towards their so-called friends, never missing an opportunity to push others down who aren’t close to them.
This is what the film was about, to me - trying to find basic satisfaction and identity in a thoroughly shitty and surreal world. That at times made for an uncomfortable experience, waiting tensely for a victory that may not be wholly cathartic.
As the premiere screening of Wasted on the Young, we were fortunate enough to have the director and cast take the stage afterwards to field questions from the audience at the State Theatre. The response shows it was clearly well-received. The cast are to be applauded for a top job, and the director for expert execution of an examination of difficult subject matter.