The Wackness quad poster

“In June I graduate. And then I go to my safety school. And then I get a little older. And then I die.”

Luke Shapiro

Set in the summer of 1994 against the backdrop of a now-unfamiliar incarnation of New York, The Wackness is a disarmingly tender drama that unfolds with the heightened reality of a hazy memory. My own recollection of the trailer had led me to expect a coming of age story as Luke experiences first love in the summer before college; in fact the film belongs equally to Ben Kingsley who revels in the flamboyant role of Dr Squires, with whom Luke trades drugs for therapy sessions and develops a friendship. It is telling that the mumbling, drug-dealing teenager demonstrates greater maturity than most of those around him, even as he navigates virgin emotional territory; the film’s adults appear to illustrate the failure to come of age, or at least the fact that maturity is a continuing process. There is a tonal clash between the off-kilter humour in The Wackness and its more serious intentions, but not enough to derail this beautifully shot musing on embracing life’s painful splendour.