Matt Wolf's film is structured in an awkward fashion, falling somewhere between a conventional documentary and a poetic essay.
Wolf, inspired by Jon Savage's book of the same name, makes excellent use of archival footage as he explores "teenage," a grey area between childhood and adulthood. He leaps in impressionistic fashion from Baden-Powell and the Scouts to the Hitler Youth and the Swing Kids in Nazi Germany, from the Zoot Suit riots to the Bright Young Things in the London of the 1920s.
At times, his approach seems random and superficial. The sudden way he cuts between archive material and reconstructions, shot with actors but in a period style, is often jarring.
But at least his approach is not didactic – we never have the sense of an older adult expert lecturing us on how teenagers should be defined.