Coming-of-age flick lets the ‘freak’ flag fly

    “Some Freaks” is a beautifully understated examination of the journeys three outcasts take while on their paths to self-discovery. It is also the story of balancing who you want to be with the person others wish you to be, as well as that of falling in love with one person and falling out of love with someone unfamiliar to you.

    This brisk, 97-minute debut film from director Ian MacAllister-McDonald dives right in, as we are introduced to our main protagonist, Matt, while he’s being taunted by bullies for having just one eye. When Matt meets Jill — the chubby, blue-haired, punk-rock relative of his best friend, Elmo — Matt is at first repulsed by the idea of dating her due to her weight. After incidentally being forced to get to know one another through hanging out with Elmo, Matt and Jill fall hard and fast in love.

    However, much in the way of teenage life, things change for the lovebirds. When Jill is accepted to college in California, any big plans of the two moving out west and building a life are quickly cut short by crippling reality. The couple is forced to separate f for six months while Jill attends college and Matt works as a dishwasher to save money. When the couple reunites, Jill has lost 50 pounds and changed her style of dress from punk rock to boho chic. Matt has ditched his old, worn-out eye patch in favor of a prosthetic eye. Matt quickly begins to resent that Jill now receives so much positive attention; Jill begins to wonder if there may be a better, more handsome match for her than Matt.

    This film manages to take the coming-of-age narrative and slightly twist it. Most films of this subgenre would have the three outcasts clearly cut out to be our heroes and framed solely as victims of the bullying they endure. In “Some Freaks,” each of the characters is both a victim of bullying, which they seem to accept as completely normal, and a perpetrator. Likewise, each of these outcasts resents the presumptions others make about them while simultaneously making narrow-minded, unfounded assumptions about others. Because of this, it is easy to know whom we’re supposed to be cheering on, but easy, too, to question whether or not these characters are indeed our heroes — or even likable.

    In the ways of fitting in, Matt, Jill and Elmo are, at first, behaving how they think they are “supposed to.” We see this in small instances; to gain Matt’s affection, Jill performs a sexual act on him before they ever even kiss because she assumes that’s what will keep him around; to fit in with “normal” high-school couples, Matt asks Jill to be his prom date even though neither seems particularly interested in the event; Elmo continuously pretends to be homophobic in an effort to fit in with other guys, particularly his crush, a jock named Justin. These events in the film, as well as many others, allow “Some Freaks” to ask us: What happens when you reach your goal of fitting in? Is it worth sacrificing your personality to gain inclusion? Do you give your heart to someone who likes the new you, or stay with someone who treasures the person you used to be?

    I won’t reveal the film’s answer here, but I will say that the subject is explored thoughtfully and with accuracy. As teenagers, when a friend’s personality changes as we grow closer to adulthood, even minor differences in their tastes seem to be major. “Some Freaks” reminds us of this and recreates the distance felt between slowly differing friends and lovers in its beautiful cinematography and seamless acting. Thomas Mann and Lily Mae Harrington are tailor-made for their roles as Matt and Jill, respectively. Their lines are delivered with earnestness and often ring painfully true.

    “Some Freaks” is certainly worth a watch. It is a refreshingly nondramatic, natural take on a very dramatic and unstable time in most everyone’s lives — the transition from teenager to adult, yes, but also the transition from being unsure of oneself to self-acceptance. We could all benefit from a viewing of this film, perhaps not to emulate the characters’ actions or words, but to serve as a reminder of our own goals, values and aspirations.

    “Some Freaks” will remind viewers, too, that it’s OK to let your freak flag fly — because, just maybe, another freak will come along and love you for it.

     Dax Doyle, 25, is a horror-movie aficionado and aspiring film critic living and working in southern New Jersey. Follow him on twitter @vapidyouth.