Writer-director Nathan Adloff's slight coming-of-age dramedy "Miles," takes us back to a distant era — 1999. It was a time of dial-up modems and AOL Instant Messenger, and in this story, the archaic internet access functions as a lifeline for a gay, movie-obsessed teenager, Miles (Tim Boardman), who can't wait to bust out of Springfield and make his way to the big city: Chicago.
When his stern father (Stephen Root) suddenly passes away, leaving Miles and his mom, Pam (Molly Shannon), penniless, his dreams of film school and urban living are suddenly jeopardized. He isn't willing to give up and joins the girls' volleyball team (he's talented, and there isn't a boys' team) in the unlikely hope of scoring an athletic scholarship. That endeavor sends him down an unexpected path as he faces down the school board and fights to keep his spot on the team.
Boardman and Shannon make for a winning duo as mother and son. Miles is steadfast in who he is and where he wants to be, but the rest of the film seems in search of an identity. This movie doesn't quite know what it wants to be — it can't pull off the civil rights/sports drama theme and is far stronger when musing on the high-stakes if small-scale drama of high school life. At times "Miles" feels a bit rickety around the edges, but the character at the center is instantly relatable and has a relaxed charm that makes the story compelling.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: AMC Dine-In Sunset 5, West Hollywood