Review by Tim Plant
Rating: (2 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/17/2009, 1:00pm
Feature presentation, $10 at AFI Silver
A COCOON IS that awkward middle stage between cute and beautiful — which is a fitting metaphor for Night Fliers. It’s not yet fully formed, but the potential there is tremendous.
Sara St. Martin Lynne’s film is about pre-teen angst, which is a frightening omen for the teen angst to follow. Tomboy Jesse Hawthorne (Sasha Harrison) is new to town and not starting off on the right foot. Already on the wrong side of the ”mean girls” trio, Jesse’s love of crickets earns her additional ridicule and nicknames. Fortunately for Jesse, misfits are easy to spot and she befriends her neighbor Jacob (Daniel Zinna), sparking a platonic relationship that helps with the tough times.
Throughout Night Fliers, Jesse and her friends deal with issues like crushes on each other regardless of gender and discomfort with their own developing bodies, but being only 12 none are too deeply explored. Add in some bad parenting, group science projects, and one paint-huffing older brother, and you have a lot of potential therapy material.
Lynne relies on metaphors and symbolism throughout the film and it starts to get heavy handed. There are only so many times we can hear Jesse’s science teacher, played as more creepy than cool by Luis Saguar, describe the lifecycle of a moth and know he’s really talking about Jesse. Lynne also jumps between shots too quickly during long conversations, causing scenes to feel disjointed and unbalanced. Though Harrison and Zinna struggle with some of the scenes, their youth permits for some allowances.
Thanks in part to the soundtrack, Night Fliers is vaguely reminiscent of Juno, but more time and growth in the cocoon would be required for that level of mastery.