Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Reach succeeds where it does largely because Clayton doesn't convince as a kid who's seriously depressed."

When a film opens with the main character contemplating suicide and it's not a short, you can be pretty sure how the narrative is going to go - especially if it's a comedy about teenagers. Stephen (Garrett Clayton) isn't exactly in with the in crowd at school - he isn't even in with the out crowd - but the arrival of new kid Clarence (Johnny James Fiore) is about to change his life.

Clarence is one of those kids who, in any real school, would be ripped to pieces. It's not just his name - it's the chirpy way he talks to teachers, his hobby writing plays, his whole studied air of superiority. He has one of those hats that exist almost exclusively in indie movies and he's fond of telling people about his travels around the world. But he also knows judo and it doesn't take him long to leap to a stranger's defence, proving his hero credentials at the same time as sending a message that he can look after himself.

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Stephen is wary. He's grown up without a mother and distrusts people who try to get close to him. But for some reason Clarence finds him intriguing and becomes determined to drag him out of his depression. In the process, Stephen learns to connect more effectively with those around him - even his struggling father. But meanwhile, other students are struggling with problems of their own. Occasional segues into dramatically glum music remind us that not everyone is on the same happy journey, and tragedy will strike before the story comes to an end.

Finding good comedy in serious subjects is a difficult business. Reach succeeds where it does largely because Clayton doesn't convince as a kid who's seriously depressed, leaving room for a likeable enough tale of friendship. It's uneven, however, as the same issue means that the more downbeat scenes in the film don't gel with the rest. Beyond this, it suffers from its strictly by-the-book approach and heavily mannered performances (especially from Fiore) which mean we're constantly aware that we're watching something artificial. This makes it difficult to engage with the character drama on offer.

Subplots around a school play and young people who need confidence to discover their talents are just more of the same old stuff we've seen countless times before in similar films. Whilst there are many worse ones out there than Reach, it never really finds a voice of its own.

Reviewed on: 09 Jun 2018
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The life of a suicidal teenager is transformed when he's befriended by the new guy at his school.

Director: Leif Rokesh

Writer: Maria Capp, Johnny James Fiore

Starring: Bojesse Christopher, Johnny James Fiore, Jordan Doww

Year: 2018

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: US


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