The Manic Pixie Dream Boy is a rare, elusive creature — quirky, exciting, existing merely to help a man understand life and himself. The female of the species is seen far more often in the wild, which is why it’s such a thrill to spot the male in the teen drama “Reach,” written by Maria Capp, Johnny James Fiore and Grant Harling, and directed by Leif Rokesh.
Steven (Garrett Clayton) is planning to kill himself until the new kid at school, Clarence (Fiore), sweeps him off his feet. With a wardrobe that would be the envy of Ducky from “Pretty in Pink,” Clarence wields a Super-8 camera, Shakespearean monologues, and martial arts chokeholds with equal élan. What he gives Steven is something to live for.
Instead of focusing on this relationship, “Reach” throws in a monkey wrench — Steven’s bully, Nick (Jordan Doww), and their shared family histories of death, destruction, drunkenness and, yes, suicide. The story veers off track, and Rokesh can’t cleanly execute the wild tonal shifts and haphazard story beats.
If Clarence seems too good to be true, he’s got his own demons and is by far the most interesting person on screen. Which is why it’s a disappointment when, ultimately, he’s only a motivating force for Steven, not a fully formed character with his own arc. “Reach” disappoints with its lack of imagination for Clarence’s fate, and the hackneyed reliance on clichés.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood