20th Century Women: NZIFF Review
One of the titles much requested for this year's festival and one of the earliest to be revealed, Mike Mills' 20th Century Women is a relatively joyous memoir of 1 boy growing up under the thrall of 3 women.
Set in 1970s California, the film zig-zags around the daily life of 15-year-old fatherless Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) who lives with his mother (Annette Bening) who runs a boarding house. Other inhabitants in this house include Abbie (red haired Greta Gerwig) and handyman William (Billy Crudup).
Also dropping by, unbeknownst to Jamie's mother, is best friend Julia (Fanning) whom Jamie has a crush on but whose advances are continually rejected.
Worried that Jamie's not getting the full life experience he needs, his mother asks the house guests to help impart their life wisdom - but it doesn't quite go to plan.
Reflexive, warm and gentle, 20th Century Women is a nostalgia blast about the coming of age, gaining of new insights and pushing against the times.
Most of the push and pull of the film comes from the interaction between the characters and how living and coping together shapes many of us in ways we don't appreciate until later in life. Bening's ease of presence and way with quick one-liners throughout give this an edge early on, but later, a more mournful tone means the kaleidoscope of life feels a bit more poignant than you'd first expect.
Ruminations on life through various eyes come easily throughout, but what 20th Century Women actually does is spin a web that's entrancing and engaging, if slightly forgettable - it's a reflection of the signs of the times, but also a salutation to the wisdom of those around us.