Afterschool (18)

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The Independent Culture

Elements of Larry Clark and Michael Haneke intrude upon this unsettling study in American youth, alienated to the point of psychosis by digital overload and adult inadequacy.

Robert (Ezra Miller) is a quiet, introverted pupil at a posh East Coast boarding school, his head abuzz with internet porn clips and unpleasant intimations that he's unloved: "I think I'm not a good person," he tells his mother on the phone.

The drug-related deaths of two popular sisters shakes the school, and brings Robert into the public eye: he happened to catch their last moments on DV while pursuing a video project. The writer-director Antonio Campos uses his camera in catatonically slow movements, to varying effect: sometimes it feels probing, at others it looks like so much film school self-indulgence. The hints of a Blow Up-style murder mystery gather disquietingly, but fail to deliver the shocking reveal it seems to promise. It has moments of convincing emotional dislocation, and there's a subtle build-up of tension between Robert and his drug-dealer room-mate. By the end, however, the balance has shifted irreparably from content to style, and the point of concern seems to have changed from adolescent angst to social surveillance.

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