Mean Creek

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner3/11/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 87 mins

An impressive debut feature from writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes, Mean Creek is a gripping tale with strong performances from its young cast.

This year’s London Film Festival has been chiefly notable for the large number of impressive debuts by first time writer-directors and Mean Creek, written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes is a perfect example. Aided by a terrific young cast, Estes has created a tightly-wound drama that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go, forcing you to confront a moral dilemma or two along the way.

Deceptively Simple Plot

The plot is deceptively simple. Set in a small town in Oregon, the film stars Rory Culkin (the younger one, from Signs) as Sam, a shy student who is continually picked on at school by an obnoxious bully named George (Joshua Peck). When he confesses his daily torment to his protective older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan), the two boys concoct a revenge plan revolving around a birthday river trip designed to culminate in George’s humiliation.

Also along for the ride are Sam’s would-be girlfriend Millie (Carly Schroeder) and Rocky’s friends Clyde (Ryan Kelley) and Marty (Scott Mechlowicz, from Eurotrip).

As the trip progresses, Sam sees George in a new light and decides he wants to call off the prank, but Marty has other ideas. However, none of them are prepared for what fate has in store…

The cast are extremely good and give strong, naturalistic performances that are a long way from the typical teen movie’s usual collection of wise-cracking stereotypes. Instead, the characters are well-drawn and feel like real people. In addition, Estes’s impressive script is subtle enough to let us fill in some of the gaps for ourselves, particularly in the case of Marty, whose relationship with his violent older brother hints at his own reasons for wanting to hit back at George.

Rory Culkin Particularly Good

Rory Culkin is particularly good here, bringing a shy, softly-spoken sensitivity to his role that immediately explains why Rocky is so protective of him; he’s rapidly shaping up to be the most talented Culkin brother, largely thanks to the smart choices he keeps making.

Of the rest of the cast, Scott Mechlowicz builds on his ‘Next Big Thing’ potential with a complex, emotional performance and Joshua Peck does a terrific job as George, ensuring that, like everyone around him, you continually see-saw between pitying him and wanting to punch his lights out.

Estes makes strong use of his locations and there’s impressive cinematography by Sharone Meir; almost half the film was shot on the swampy Lewis river, with handheld cameras and natural lighting. There’s also an excellent credits sequence that adds to the atmosphere of the film.

In short, Mean Creek is a thoroughly gripping drama that forces you to examine your feelings towards the characters in the same way its protagonists do. As such, it’s an enjoyable, thought-provoking film that marks Jacob Aaron Estes out as a talent to watch. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 18/11/2019 02:12

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