2005 - United States - 94 minutes
Writer - Anthony Cipriano
Director - Michael Cuesta
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.7/10 - Link to IMDB
Roger Ebert's Rating - 3.5 of 4 Stars - Link to Ebert's Review
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars

This is an edgy little film that portrays twelve-year-olds in a far more reasonable light than most films. It doesn't paint a pretty picture, but the picture that it does paint illuminates three young people in a realistic manner.

At the beginning of the film, you get a look at four young friends getting on with the kind of things that entertain most kids of twelve years. They share a tree house where they smoke, drink, and discuss the general topics of adolescents.

Rudy and Jacob are twins, and the only thing that seems odd is that Jacob wears a hockey mask most of the time. Rudy is the outgoing twin whereas Jacob is the shy thinker. You later find that Jacob has a large birthmark on his face that seems to explain the difference in personality.

Leonard is the fat kid from a family of fat parents and siblings.

Malee is the girl of the group who is growing up in a broken home with a distant mother and an absent father.

The lives of the three remaining are all changed when Rudy is killed and Leonard is injured by two other boys in an act of vandalism.

As a result of his injury, Leonard can no longer smell and, therefore, no longer taste. Instead of continuing to indulge in the fried, sweet, and fattening food his mother so lovingly serves, Leonard commences a diet of fruits and vegetables. His whole family - especially his mother - is totally dismayed by his "strange" behavior. He also begins a daily exercise regimen which baffles them even more. The scenes with Leonard and his family are both comic and tragic - as is life itself. In order to "educate" his mother, Leonard commits some desperate but extremely foolish acts.

Malee's distant mother is - ironically - a psychologist. Malee encounters one of her mother's patients in the waiting room. She later sees him shirtless at a construction site and becomes overwhelmed with infatuation. She engages in an all-out campaign to seduce him.

Jacob is not only traumatized by the death of his twin but is also alienated by the actions of his parents. His father becomes emotionally distant while his mother is so filled with anger that she can think of nothing but vengeance upon the youths who are responsible for the death of her son. In short, neither is there for their living son.

Needless-to-say this is all pretty heady stuff, but director Michael Cuesta is masterful in showing the viewer what might actually happen if all this were real. He - rightly so - makes watching the actions of these young people and the adults who surround them extremely uncomfortable. This is especially true in a scene where Malee seeks to sexually seduce the man with whom she has become infatuated. Cuesta's direction of the emotionally charged scene is masterful.

Even though you will be shocked and dismayed, I heartedly recommend this film. It's not pretty, but it certainly is insightful.

Neil Turner
October 22, 2006

Twelve and Holding