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Adolescence is no nirvana in '90s-set indie drama 'As You Are'

Adolescence is no nirvana in '90s-set indie drama 'As You Are'
Owen Campbell, left, Charlie Heaton and Amandla Stenberg in the film "As You Are." (Votiv Films)

Miles Joris-Peyrafitte makes his feature directorial debut with the striking, haunting exploration of teen angst and sexuality, "As You Are," co-written with Madison Harrison. Joris-Peyrafitte uses the early 1990s as the background for this tale of a deadly love triangle, where jealousy cuts in unexpected ways.

It's an analog version of youth, devoid of cellphones and computers, only themselves to amuse or torment in real life. Charlie Heaton (a River Phoenix look-alike) costars as Mark, alongside Owen Campbell as Jack, pals thrown together when their parents start dating. They're soon inseparable — and befriend Sarah (Amandla Stenberg), dabbling in drugs and sex — falling together and falling apart in tempo with the rise and fall of the parents' relationship.

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Interspersed throughout, acting as a story guide, is VHS footage of a taped police interview in which Mark is notably absent, imbuing an eerie sense of foreboding and ephemerality to the heady friendship-love story.

In "As You Are," teenage boy bodies are under attack: from their parents, each other, from random accidents, from cultural expectations. "I wish I were a girl," Mark whispers, his eyes blackened, as if that would protect him from the abuses of the world.

This lyrical and ethereal film mixes the stark style of a crime story into a love story, capturing the highs, lows and the deepest, darkest recesses of grungy, stoned teenage life; a life always yearning for more.

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'As You Are'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood

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