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by Christian Paxton
August 23rd, 2012

Out of all of the tasks assigned to me as a summer intern here at Rooftop, this has to be the hardest. In reflecting back on the array of films I had the pleasure of seeing, there are just too many beautiful shots, too many great performances and scripts, and too many times that the final credits came up and my only thought was “Incredible”. Yet one did stick to me in a way that the others didn’t, a way that largely manifested itself out of my sheer surprise. That film is “Only the Young”.

At the risk of sounding uninspired or faithless, I will admit that after reading its description, the idea of watching a two-hour feature about teenage Jesus-lovers riding around on their skateboards and drowning in the woes of early adulthood did not appeal to me. Boy, was I wrong. The film opens to a shot of our leading kids, Garrison and Skye, lying on their backs on the floor of a typical teenager’s bedroom and gazing pensively at the ceiling above. Immediately again I thought to myself Great…bring on the angst. Then, as the film progressed, I started feeling something tug loose memories in my mind until I finally realized what I was experiencing: familiarity. The film so purely captures that sensitive era in all of our lives when we are grappling to discover who we are, what we think, who are our friends are, how we want to live—an era that perhaps now I’ve hence disconnected with and put to rest. Only the Young offers us a trip back to when our emotions operated at their highest capacities, when love was something given fully and freely before we learned what heartbreak was and how to protect ourselves.

We see the daily humdrum of a quiet Californian suburbia and witness Skye, Garrison, and Kevin soldier against perpetual idleness with skateboarding and other explorative ventures. They become representatives of the youthful world, reminding us of something very important. Be silly, dress up as Gandalf, dye your hair pink if you want. They show us that even though this stage in life is an ephemeral one, we can carry it within us forever. They engage whimsies of thoughtlessness and just play around. I could not help but acknowledge that in their environment, they struck me as the only ones really living.

Like a skateboard flying down a winding road, the delicate time in which we witness these teens will quickly fade for them. But because of this film, we all will always be able to turn back and remember a time when we looked forward with more curiosity than trepidation, when the world was one big playground, and when our emotions were unbridled and raw.

There is a moment in which Brandi Carlile’s cover of “Heaven” by Bryan Adams plays in the background to a shot of Skye riding with her dad in a truck along the coast. Within those few seconds, the singer sings the lyrics, “Oh thinkin’ about all our younger years, there was only you and me, we were young and wild and free”. Suddenly I realized, although the title of the film is “Only the Young”, ironically, it is really something meant for all of us.

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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