Dir. Jason Lapeyre & Rob Wilson. Canada. 2012.

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This is distinctive in the array of films that have centred on kids assuming adult roles and mores with rites of passages themes and challenges such as The Goonies and Stand by Me, distinctive and different.  The whys and what fors of the film's story basis is never pursued: the fact that a group of kids have decide to take over the nearby woods, split into two distinct groups and carry out territorial warfare is underdeveloped - but this never seems to matter.

The story is involving from opening credits onwards with the comic book approach defying the seriousness which will underlie a lot of the interaction. There are two leaders with different approaches and the rest of the group fall behind them, loyally. The outstanding performance is from Siam Yu who plays Kwon, a part Korean kid who is captured and 'tortured' and suffers at the hand of Skinner (Michael Friend), the kid with the biggest ruck of issues. There is a sense of seriousness among them with the tactics and weaponry, though not dangerous but this is off set by the fact that most of them are unfeasibly good looking which does not leave much room for the usual digs at the fat boy or geek.

The only woman in the group is Jess, who part tactical strategist, part distraction fills the intermittent space of calm with illusions and ay dreams of having private moments with the best looking one of them - initially a leader but who disappears to go back to the life of being a mundane real kid. Jess herself at one point says she needs to go home to get some juice but will be back later. One kid wants to go and revise for a test, these pleas sometimes used though as diversion from real motives within the context of the war adding humour and tension release. A great diversion is the red haired teen who consistently offers hypothetical analogies to the boys in his group like the choice between having a computer or dick - better still when these offerings are pondered over and the grade of the computer is thought about seriously. The 'altar boy' Wesley gets some stick for his religious convictions, but all of the merciless picking as domain of this age is done within the context of the war - typical for what happens in adult fare.

The insecurities of childhood - the sheer desperation of Skinner to use this situation to absolve his hurt pride in losing people close to him, to reassert his popularity addresses the themes of importance at this age and time of life when the entire world resides on the peer group assessment. The acting is simply superb, the scenarios believable within the context delivered and the cinematography, beautiful. The notion that this is a neighbourhood woods is lost in the undertaking of portraying a jungle, an unknown location in another world - necessary for us to buy into the premise. The music is darned good too adding brevity and tension at the appropriate moments.

The film closes with danger and tension diffused via the confession of one of the main protagonists as to real motive: the stuff that disappears later in life when matters far more serious but just as relevant take over. A gem.

Gail Spencer

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