mid90s (2018) – Film Review
Director: Jonah Hill
Cast: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges
by Sarah Morgan
Jonah Hill is one of the world’s highest-paid actors, but he’s always wanted to be a writer. In the past he’s dabbled with various screenplays and co-wrote the initial treatment for 21 Jump Street. Now he’s putting his reputation on the line by both writing and directing mid90s, a nostalgic coming-of-age comedy-drama set in a world he once knew.
As a teenager he worked in an LA skateboard shop, and it’s such a place that brings together impressionable and lonely 13-year-old Stevie with his new, older and much cooler friends.
Stevie’s home life isn’t up to much. Although he gets on with his single mother Dabney, she appears to be largely absent, leaving him in the ‘care’ of his 18-year-old, fitness-obsessed brother Ian, who takes out all his anger and frustration on Stevie via vicious beatings.
“Touching piece of cinema”
Things look up when Stevie is taken under the wing of the older boys. Initially impressed by the banter between those working in or hanging out at the shop, he quickly finds the brotherhood he’s been missing, as well as the direction he seems to be lacking at home.
However, hanging out with the gang brings its own issues. Soon Stevie is smoking, drinking and losing some of the innocence that made him so lovable, but a potentially life-changing event makes everyone – Stevie, his mother, brother, friends and even those of us viewing at home – realise what is truly important.
Hill’s debut as writer-director is a touching piece of cinema. It’s unashamedly nostalgic but also sheds light on issues connected with race, class and privilege, while showing that none of us should judge a book by its cover.
Plaudits should also go to Sunny Suljic, who plays Stevie; you may have seen him previously in The Killing of a Sacred Deer or The House With a Clock in its Walls. Without such an assured performance in a tricky role, the entire film would have collapsed. No doubt he was thrilled to get a chance to show off his skateboarding skills too.
Na-Kel Smith also deserves a mention due to his sensitive portrayal of Ray, the shop worker with the most sensible head on his shoulders and who wants to work hard to find an escape from his background.
Hill should get a pat on the back for coaxing such performances out of his young and inexperienced cast – it augers well for his future directorial projects.
‘mid90s’ is released on Blu-ray by Altitude