Young & Wild: Sundance Film Review
Entirely living up to its title, Young & Wild is an exuberant, horny, playful and raunchy explosion of teenage female impulses expressed in bracingly contemporary free-form style. Derived from a real-life blog of the same name and combusting from the age-old tension between repressive religion and unrestrainable hormones, Marialy Rivas' film is a riot of sex, defiance, impulse and experimentation splashed on the screen in a style that will appeal strongly to young audiences and some older ones as well, both for artistic and voyeuristic reasons. Way into NC-17 territory, this triple-hot Chilean import provides exploitable opportunities for an enterprising small theatrical distributor and is a natural for online viewing.
Using a barrage of images whose boldness, rapidity, explicitness and ultimate ephemerality matches the mish-mashed nature of the blog that inspired it, this rambunctious work reeks of life's juices recently unleashed. Among the film's four writers, who also include the director and Pedro Peirano, co-scenarist of the international success The Maid, is Camila Gutierrez, who ran her sex-crazed Joven y Alocada blog in her mid-teens, from 2005-7, under the noses of her evangelical Christian parents. The blog is back up again now.
After a blunt compendium of key moments in the sexual awakening of 17-year-old Daniela (Alicia Rodriguez, who was allegedly 18 when the movie was made), she's kicked out of her religious high school a month before her college placement tests when the authorities discover she's had sex. After threatening to send her on a year-long religious boat cruise, Daniela's severely intolerant mother (Aline Kuppenheim) and little-seen, wealthy church honcho father decide to let her work at their evangelical TV station, where the earnest young employes are expected to remain chaste.
Talk about letting the fox into the henhouse. Doing her utmost to upend the status quo, Daniela, a humorless, rather sulky black-haired girl with an unemphasized hot bod, goes along with a hands-off romance for a while with straight-arrow colleague Tomas (Felipe Pinto) until she all but tricks him into giving in to natural impulses. Simultaneously, in what's arguably the lustiest scene, Daniela gets hot and heavy with another female, with the nickname “Sailor” (Maria Gracia Omegna), who has no inhibitions. There are, of course, some issues when the two lovers learn of their identical interest.
However, this is not a movie that builds to, or hinges upon, such a conventional dramatic confrontation. Everything is fluid, from the nature of the relationships to the slangy, text messagy word usages and spellings, the latter wittily reflected in rapid-fire subtitles. When she can arrange it, Daniela gets out of her mother's radar range by staying at the beach with her beautiful, cancer-stricken aunt, who has led a rewarding bohemian life herself and serves as both a protector and something of a role model for Daniela.
To American eyes, a certain interest lies in observing the presence of evangelical Christians in another, predominantly Catholic, country (at the Sundance post-screening q&a, director Rivas stated that Chile's population is now 18 per cent evangelical). Of course, the ferocious effort of conservative religions to keep a tight lid on pre-marital sex is as old as history, but seeing it played out in a South American context gives it a new twist, at least onscreen.
Young & Wild plays as well as it does partly because it doesn't mediate or interpret its source—it simply expresses it in cinematic form. After lurching toward a double climax (not in sexual terms, although its protagonist would have happily welcomed that), the film screeches to a stop, but this is quickly forgotten in the wake of one of the most beguiling end credits sequences ever devised.
Although stopping just short of hardcore footage, the innumerable sex scenes are as vivid and realistic as anyone could want and the imaginative graphics are loaded with animated, silk-screened and otherwise elaborated images of ready-for-use phalli and flaming female genitalia, among other erotic images. The dialogue and blog messages are, if anything, even more explicit.
At once langourous and impulsively provocative, Rodriguez is almost disturbingly convincing as a girl who would be a nightmare to have as a daughter and more than intriguing to meet as a like-minded boy or girl of a similar age. Actors in general are alive to the occasion and the tight, mobile camerawork and sleight-of-hand editing are entirely of a piece with the bombardment of sensations the film wishes to express.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (World Dramatic Competition)
Production: elle driver, fabula (Chile)
Cast: Alicia Rodriguez, Aline Kuppenheim, Maria Gracia Omegna, Felipe Pinto
Director: Marialy Rivas
Screenwriters: Camila Gutierrez, Pedro Peirano, Marialy Rivas, Sebastian Sepulveda
Producers: Juan de Dios Larrain, Pablo Larrain
Executive producers: Mariane Hartard, Juan Ignacio Correa
Director of photography: Sergio Armstrong
Production designer: Polin Garbisu
Editors: Andrea Chignoli, Sebastian Sepulveda