DON'T GROW UP [London Film Festival 2015]

PrintE-mail Written by Peter Turner

They f**k you up, your Mum and Dad. Philip Larkin couldn't have said it any better. The kids in Don't Grow Up have been abused, abandoned and failed by their parents and find themselves trapped on an island where every adult has gone mad and is suddenly out for blood.

Six British teens who live in the St Madeline Youth Advice Care Centre on the remote island of Northlands have to battle for their lives when an outbreak of a mysterious disease leaves all the adults roaming the island like marauding zombies. All have issues as revealed in the video interviews that open the film. Some have hopes for the future, but others cannot see anything beyond their troubled pasts. Fergus Riordan is Bastian, a boy haunted by flashbacks to his abusive past, while Madeleine Kelly is Pearl, who simply wants Bastian to notice her.

When they awake in their facility one morning to realise that they have been abandoned yet again, they head out to the supermarket to grab some booze and find themselves in the middle of an age-related apocalypse. Hitting the road, they have to learn to survive in a world where there are no more rules and if the adults don't beat them to death first, then the other feral kids wandering around may just nail them instead.

Don't Grow Up has a great premise and starts out like it might be an entertaining mix of Attack the Block meets 28 Days Later. The kids are a damaged bunch; full of insecurities and raging against authority. Peer pressure pushes them to act out; the boys keen to exercise some form of control over their lives and the girls mostly just desperate for attention from the boys.

The gender stereotypes play into the idea that these kids are just adults in waiting, and there's even a hint of paranoia as to whether any of the youths will be next to become snarling, murderous adults. Don't Grow Up raises the question of what makes a child into an adult without offering any definite answers. However, the spectre of sex and responsibility hangs over the latter half of the film as the dwindling number of teens find themselves lumbered with younger children to look after.

There's some cack-handed scripting on occasion, and while the direction is generally excellent in creating a brooding atmosphere it goes a little over-stylised for some flashback sequences. The cinematography captures the eerie deserted island beautifully, the changing scenery keeping the visuals gorgeous throughout. The flaws in the script would not be so noticeable either, but the wildly differing abilities of the principal cast.

There is some decent acting here, but unfortunately some of the better cast members are killed off earlier than others who make it to the final reel. None are helped by the weaker parts of the script, but Thierry Poiraud’s direction manages to keep the tone dark and moody, instead of descending into amateur dramatics.

Don’t Grow Up is a frustrating missed opportunity; a great premise and strong direction hampered by a cast and script ironically not quite mature enough to make the most of the material.


Expected Rating: 7 out of 10

Actual Rating:

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