Less Adolescent, an Australian coming-of-age film featured in this year’s SF Indiefest, centers around the ripples caused by the death of an 18-year-old’s (Emmanuel’s) mother.

After mom passes, Emmanuel’s deadbeat dad, Vic, tells him that he has another woman in his life, and they have a daughter together. At first Emmanuel lives with his evil aunt, then his dad’s other family, which he learns is plagued by some of the very same problems (irresponsible/absent parent(s)) he endured growing up. Thrust into this unfortunate position, Emmanuel adapts quickly and sets about righting his dysfunctional family without really realizing it at first.

As the title suggests, Less Adolescent is about learning to act, uh, less adolescent and more, well, mature. And by “less adolescent,” I don’t think director Lee Gales meant making less fart jokes; I think he meant responsibility. As so often happens with faulty parenting, kids grow up fast and act more like parents than the adults. Which is a fine dynamic to explore in a film, except that this film didn’t do it well.

I get that Indiefest is about independent films, which means low budget. But Less Adolescent wasn’t just low budget – it was low-grade art: poor acting, maudlin score, and laughably simplistic resolution of very nuanced interpersonal issues (e.g., Emmanual finally calls out his aunt for being so nasty, and, ta da! – immediately she’s sweet as pie and has patched up her lifelong mothering pitfalls).

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