There has been about four times where a random film maker messaged me on Facebook or Twitter asking me to review their random movie. I’ve ignored them every single time until now. And that’s honestly because the guy who asked me to watch his movie, Mike Retter, actually conversed with me multiple times before he asked me to give him a plug.
With that said, whenever Retter and I did converse, we were either being assholes to each other, or we were discussing whether Armond White was one of the best film critics of all time or a pretentious hack.
So off I went to see his movie, which I promised to do literally a month ago, but I kept putting it off for some reason or another.
Youth on the March is a stoner movie. It is shot vertically from start to finish, it’s almost entirely abstract, and it has almost no story.
When I say that it’s shot vertically, I mean as if it was shot on an iPhone, like one of those people who made a video to post on Youtube, and discovered later that maybe he should’ve shot the video on landscape instead of portrait.
However, the choice to shoot vertically was done intentionally for Youth on the March, and I was honestly intrigued to find out why that decision was made. When the movie was over, I found no answer to be had except for aesthetic choices. And honestly, some of the shots were well complimented by the choice to shoot them vertically. Additionally, some of the scene transitions were an absolute delight to watch.
To say that Youth on the March has a “story” would be incorrect. It’s more like a week in the life of a young kid who smokes weed with his friends every day. We follow Gil, the aforementioned kid, through him feeding his dog, molding makeshift bongs, stirring shit up with his friends, masturbating, stuffing his face with food, seeking a romance with some girl, and occasionally dealing with some sort of Oedipus complex… or something.
Every single transition from one scene to the next is extremely jarring and has no sense of flow. It’s as if Gil warps from one place to the next absorbing no real meaning, consequences, or victories. This effect really compliments the idea that he’s constantly stoned, which I enjoyed. But in the end, I started to feel impatient with the entire story because it goes absolutely nowhere.
And that’s one thing I was trying to look for throughout my entire experience with Youth on the March: some sort of progression of story. But it feels like every single occurrence, every single line of dialogue, everything is designed to make nothing progress. At the very end, there is a few changes in events, but none of it causes our main character to feel anything different or new.
All of the actors in this movie performed well, but that might be because they were rarely ever given dialogue, and they were never given any sort of scenes that force them to have emotional depth. The very few times there is opportunity for emotional depth, the film never seems to follow through with it before jumping to the next non-sequitur.
Gil himself is extremely one-noted because throughout the entire movie, he never really cares about anything. Even that aforementioned romance doesn’t really go anywhere. Like everything else in the film, it got dropped to transition into a scene that had barely any connection to the previous one.
At first, this felt like a wild ride which I enjoyed, but after a while I became impatient and irritated because the film seems to try to avoid having any particular message, meaning, or substance.
What’s even more ironic about this is that I’ve had conversations with Retter about how I shouldn’t like certain movies because, in the end, they don’t really leave you with anything on a substantial level.
Well Mike, neither did Youth on the March.
Gil’s mother wears the same thing in every single scene (and the movie does span over at least four days). In fact, there are extremely few costume changes among all the actors. If I wanted to be generous to the movie, I would say that this accentuated the feeling of all of Gil’s days meshing together because of his pot smoking. However, for all I know, this could’ve just been because of the low-budget and/or laziness. I’ll just assume it’s the former.
Also, and this doesn’t really affect my grade of the film, but the end credits song was complete cancer. And I forced myself to listen to the song because I wanted to actually see if there were any “credits”, but there ended up not being any (though Retter did say there are a couple of things he needed touch up with the film).
So basically, I really enjoyed how Youth on the March was shot, and the film really takes advantage of the fact that it’s shot vertically (despite there being no reason for it). I really enjoyed the jarring scene transitions because it made me feel like I was on pot with Gil. But there never ended up being anything I loved about the movie.
There isn’t much that I hated about this movie either, but the one thing I did hate is a really crucial part of film: there’s no narrative, no story structure, no character arcs, no emotional extremes, no insertion of true conflict, nothing to justify Gil’s life turning into a movie. If I wanted to watch a guy constantly smoke pot, masturbate, play video games, and causing ruckuses at night, then I’d just film one of my pothead friends I don’t talk to anymore. And shoot, I’d even film him with my iPhone on portrait mode.