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Film Reviews

Mid90s Review

Written by James Southcott

Nostalgia, Nineties and New Talent.

As stated in many of his interviews, Jonah Hill, Mid90s writer and director, discusses his biggest influences whilst making his directorial debut: Shane Meadows’ This Is England becomes the main topic of conversation throughout. Meadows’ work has clearly impacted Hill’s style and storytelling showcasing Hill’s fondness for nostalgia ridden social realism. Mid90s is the perfect love letter to Meadows; the film perfectly encapsulates This Is England’s coming of age story through the backdrop of an outcast subculture – it’s not about fitting in, it’s about being different. Hill hasn’t just made This is America ’95, he’s made a new genre, a new era to explore, and a promising career in filmmaking. 

“Hill hasn’t just made This is America ’95, he’s made a new genre, a new era to explore, and a promising career in filmmaking.”

Upon watching Mid90s I was oddly bombarded with an immense feeling of nostalgia, having only been born in 1997 in East Lancashire, the sun washed imagery of California in the 90s was as far away from my childhood as someone born in 16th century Mongolia, yet, I still felt a connection. Although I’d luckily just missed out on Sunny D, mad cow disease and Limp Bizkit’s cover of George Michel’s Faith (please watch, you will be disappointed) I still felt an attachment to Hill’s representation of the era. Hanging out with older kids who I looked up to as gods, playing at my friend’s house on his PlayStation, skating somewhere you probably shouldn’t be and finding a group of people you can call your family all evoked an immense feeling of nostalgia. I found myself reminiscing my own ventures of skating, spending hours outside in my concrete garden attempting to do a kickflip and resulting in bruising my ankles and scuffing my new trainers – it was all worth it though.

The soundtrack of Mid90s feels like Hill grabbed some CDs from his childhood bedroom and strung together a mixtape of the anthems that made his youth. Hill transported me to the summers I’d spend with my friends skating, listening to Big L, Morrissey and Nirvana in a derelict part of town, simply enjoying being young and free. The days of no responsibility and only worrying about the rain spoiling my day seem so long ago. There is a part of me that wants to go back to those days, grabbing my old board and hitting the streets with my mates, but as time never forgives, I can barely climb stairs without aching and being out of breath, never mind a kickflip.

What Hill has produced not only feels like we’re watching a coming of age story, but a story for the ages as we’re watching an era rarely touched by filmmakers. Hill’s own childhood, skating misadventures and the local miscreants he hung around with are the main influences of the film. To call the kids of Mid90s actors is nonsense, their performances are so realistic it feels like the script was written whilst they were filming. The conversations between the young skaters are crude, misogynistic, homophobic and most importantly real; Hill does not sugar-coat the past. Although we look back in rose-tinted glasses, the 1990s was a time of inequality and ignorance. Despite being only 20 years ago, the film helps to showcase just how far attitudes have changed. The kids of the 90s are now the people headlining movements such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and many LGBT issues.

“Despite being only 20 years ago, the film helps to showcase just how far attitudes have changed. The kids of the 90s are now the people headlining movements such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and many LGBT issues.”

Akin to the social realism movement, Hill used a relatively unknown cast who were primarily skaters, to tell his story with some stand-out performances from Stevie (Sunny Suljic), Ray (Na-Kel Smith), Fuckshit (yes, that is his name) (Olan Prenatt) hilariously and wholesomely portraying the lives of teenagers growing up in pre-internet world. The narrative revolves around Stevie, bored of his moderately suburban life, seeking a release from his abusive life at home at the hands of his older brother Ian (played by the incredible Lucas Hedges who is definitely one to look out for in the near future). Stevie comes across a group of goofy skaters who illuminate his passion for skating. Skating isn’t the only pastime they enjoy though; the temptation of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes take hold of Stevie’s life, leading to a stark character development from an innocent child to a troubled soul, highlighting the duality of many people’s childhoods. Stevie’s evolution paints the perfect picture of what most teenagers go through: finding your own identity and finding the people you belong with.

From start to finish Mid90s is a nostalgia driven masterpiece, capturing the innocence and corruption of youth and how important friendships are for temporarily escaping from the troubles of real life. Hill captures the trials and retributions of skating and the importance of persistence to finally nail that ollie, overcome shyness, and be yourself no matter what ridicule you may face. Hill has produced a seminal film that will hopefully inspire a new generation of young actors, directors, and most importantly skaters.

“From start to finish Mid90s is a nostalgia driven masterpiece, capturing the innocence and corruption of youth and how important friendships are for temporarily escaping from the troubles of real life.”

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