Venice Film Festival: Boys in the Trees

Boys in the Trees
Directed by Nicholas Verso
Starring Toby Wallace, Gulliver McGrath, Mitzi Ruhlmann and Justin Holborow

by Laura Patricia Jones

Halloween 1997 – it’s the last night of high school for Corey, Jango and the rest of their skater gang. Ready to face the real world, everyone but Corey is excited to go out with a bang. Jonah, an old childhood friend of Corey’s, is being bullied by the gang, in particular by Jango. Corey finds Jonah at the skate park and offers to walk him home for old time’s sake, but what starts off as a normal walk through the empty suburban streets, turns into a dark and jumpy ghost story.

My initial connection to Boys in the Trees was its setting. Although the director aims for the film to be set in 1997, it’s very nostalgic of the early ’00s punk pop era with skateboards, dial-up internet connections, Vans backpacks and the odd Marilyn Manson tune. It’s a rite of passage piece, your typical teenage ‘schools out’ romp on the surface, but one with a much deeper indie thriller vibe.

Director Nicholas Verso displays a tone not dissimilar to Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. Credit here goes to the young actors Toby Wallace, Gulliver McGrath and Justin Holborow as Corey, Jonah and Jango as they give fresh, believable and flawless performances. They have that kind of untouched by Hollywood rawness that is so rare to come by nowadays.

Though dragging in places, the plot has a good through line. Teenage romance,  growing up and a ghostly twist.  It will be interesting to see what Verso comes up with next!




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