20th Century Women (15)

20th Century Women (15)

Directed by Mike Mills
Picturehouse, Liverpool
From 17th February 2017

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Set in 1979 in Santa Barbara, California, three women of different ages, 55, 25 and 17-years-old, are dealing with life as it affects them.

After the eldest, chain-smoking Dorothea (superbly played by Annette Bening) has been divorced for a number of years, she strongly believes that her teenage son Jamie (Lucas Zade Zumann) needs a father figure to help develop him into a well rounded figure of a man.

But 15-year-old boys being what they are – puberty being what it is – he resents the idea, even more so when she enrols the help of two women, Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Julie (Elle Fanning) to play that role.

Inevitably his mum’s ploy fails to hit the ground running, unlike Jamie’s obsession with skateboarding along strangely deserted roads situated within sunlit forests.

Given their backgrounds – Abbie being a punk loving photographer and Julie, who likes to be subversive, notably regarding sexual matters – they were definitely not cut out to be father figures of any description.

There are numerous montages of photos (memorable stock archive images of the UK and USA punk and alt-rock scenes), a great soundtrack, and memories, some suffused with psychedelica – appropriate given that it was located in California in the 70s – and momentary views of what the future held in store, some good, some not so good, for the main characters in the movie.

Comments about 20th Century Women include the lack of a plot, which to me is no bad thing. Progress in life is not a plot.

Also that the narrative is aimless, but that is not so. Revealing insights about certain characters are revealed by their conversations and chinwags with others around them or dear to them.

The film was much more engrossing than I expected it to be. Far better than its sum of its parts.

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