The documentary does not get everything right, but rarely in life do things come out perfect, and that is precisely what this film is about.
Only The Young
Filmmakers Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet observe the lives of two teenage skateboarders who must deal with the complications that life often brings to adolescents. By following these two outcasts, who change their hair color just as much as their wardrobes, the documentary captures what it is like to be a modern teenager in a gentle, yet honest manner. Above all, Only The Young is a real life coming-of-age story which demonstrates that not everything in life has a concrete answer nor does it turn out as perfect as we would like.
Two 16 year-old skateboarding outcasts, Garrison and Kevin, are best friends who spend their days doing typical high school activities; skateboarding everywhere they can, betting five dollars to one another to do ridiculous stunts, and trying their luck with love that yields mixed results. The documentary follows these Canyon Country, California teenagers as they explore an abandoned house they use as a retreat from their boring sunny suburban community.
Even Garrison likes a girl named Skye, they never shared a kiss when they were “officially together”. Despite some tension that was created between the two friends when Kevin kissed Skye at a party, all three remain close friends. Because Garrison does not want to date someone who is just like himself, he starts to see another girl named Kristen. In true high school fashion, this creates drama between Garrison and Skye when jealousy kicks in, but the film does a good job at not letting that aspect control the picture by wisely showing it at a minimum.
Only The Young is ultimately about the uncertainly in life and is cleverly told from the perspective of teenagers, who are starting to think about their future for the first time. Uncertainly is shown in a variety of different ways, but the most obvious one is living situations. Skye’s grandparents are forced out of their home, leaving her scrambling to find a place to live. Meanwhile, Kevin can only hope that the bond between him and Garrison remains intact when his family moves to Tennessee after he graduates from high school.
Camera work found throughout the documentary is outstanding. The majority of the film takes place outside, underneath the sunny sky that radiates warm color tones, as it explores the impact of the recent economic downturn of the small desert town. Slow motion montages of adolescents jumping in pools, performing intricate flip tricks on skateboards, and sometimes even the combination of them both; helps make the independent documentary look like it was shot with ten times the budget it actually had. Assisting the excellent camera work was the fantastic editing which was also done by the two co-directors.
The mistake the documentary makes a few times is showing us only brief glimpses of their story without fully exploring them. For instance, the film will go out of its way to show you when Garrison brings up the self-inflicted razor cuts in Kevin’s forearm, but is simply brushed aside with laughter. There is no other reference to what could possibly be troubling him, only alluding to the fact that he may have a darker side.
There are moments in Only The Young where it did not feel like you were watching a documentary. Not only does it look more like a feature film, but it also behaves closer to a coming-of-age character study than your traditional documentary. Also unlike most documentaries, Only The Young does not intend on answering any questions. The film takes an unconventional approach by concentrating on circumstances in life that contain no logical explanations. The documentary does not get everything right, but rarely in life do things come out perfect, and that is precisely what this film is about.