Set in a small Oregon town where secrets are hard to keep and lies even harder, Mean Creek flows with a simple elegance of truth and consequences as it follows a crisis in the lives of its teen characters, keenly directed by first-timer Jacob Aaron Estes.
The journey within begins as a plot for playful payback on a local troublemaker; the journey on screen begins with a river, as a ragtag group of troubled-and-not teenagers set out on a boat trip to celebrate the birthday of their youngest member. As a sort of boyish Heart of Darkness trip develops, cracks in the crew form when some of the teens have second thoughts about what they are about to do.
Photographed in mossy greens and bark-colored skies, Mean Creek exposes a strange natural growth that appears in the nuanced performances of a fantastic cast, almost as if audience and child are forced to grow up together. What is so fascinating is watching an instinct-driven morality play itself out, swirl in fits and starts, float along for a while, and then finally settle into decisions that will haunt the characters for the rest of their lives.
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