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Thirteen (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary; Making of; Deleted scenes; Easter Egg trailer.

THE coming of age movie is given a harrowing transformation in Thirteen, a no-nonsense affair, based on a true story, which refuses to pull any of its punches.

Writer/director, Catherine Hardwicke, has done a terrific job of transforming the difficult material into a hard-hitting film which shocks for all of the right reasons, while also retaining a distinctly sensitive side, which makes the dramatic weight of its punches far more affecting.

Evan Rachel Wood delivers a mesmerising star turn as 13-year-old Tracy, a promising student, whose life is sent into a downward spiral after she strikes up a friendship with Nikki Reed’s cool bad-girl, Evie.

The destructive relationship which follows places Tracy at odds with her mother (Holly Hunter), while also thrusting her into a world of underage sex, drugs, body piercing, and drinking.

Yet as over the top and unlikely as some of the proceedings may seem, the true horror of watching Thirteen comes from the fact that most of what occurs is based upon the real-life experiences of co-star, Reed, making it a film which parents, everywhere, will watch in stunned silence.

The film sets its stall out from the opening moments, as the two stoned friends repeatedly punch each other in the face for laughs, before heading back in time to chronicle the origins of the friendship and its subsequent repercussions.

Yet while certainly designed to shock, the film also maintains a human side, as epitomised by Hunter’s achingly heartfelt turn as the mother, forced to watch helplessly from the sidelines as her daughter descends into self-destructive hell, while shunning those around her.

Without Hunter’s appealing turn, we may have been left with a particularly cold affair, made memorable only for its excesses, yet by paying as much attention to the torment of Tracy’s mother, we are given someone worth rooting for, as well as a far more effective cautionary tale.

For this, plaudits must go to both Hunter, for delivering such an effective supporting turn, and to Hardwicke, whose honest approach to the material helps to keep things grounded in reality, while resisting the temptation to drift into overly sentimental territory.

The director says she felt compelled to make the movie after witnessing Reed’s real-life transformation from sweet teen to out of control nightmare, first-hand, forcing her to confront and get through her problems by channelling her efforts into making the film.

As a result, she has expertly exposed the harsh realities of teen life, in which looks and style mean everything, and hanging out with the in-crowd is an essential part of a young person’s survival.

The documentary-style of the movie also lends it a necessarily gritty look, so that viewers almost feel as though they are intruding on a real life situation.

Aside from Hunter and Wood, the cast is uniformly excellent, with Reed and Six Feet Under star, Jeremy Sisto, also making their mark in showy support turns.

But it is the unflinchingly adult treatment of its difficult material which leaves the biggest impression, making this a film which will rock any parent to their foundation, while also turning a well-trodden genre on its head.

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