Review by Kate Wingfield
Rating: (2 out of 5)
Thursday, 10/22/2009, 9:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at AFI Silver
HAILING FROM DEEP within the art-student milieu, the mini-budget We are the Mods is possibly not quite as shallow and narrow as it first appears. Despite director E.E. Cassidy’s enforcement of a near-clinical lack of affect from her actors and an unabashed and at times utterly incongruous adoration for all things ”mod,” there is nevertheless something mildly mesmerizing about this small coming-of-age film. It may be Cassidy’s gentle touch or her refusal to rush the more intimate moments of the film.
Or it may simply be that watching the nonsensical movements of misguided youth is as diverting as water striders on a stagnant pond.
Between shots of Lambrettas and the people who ride them is the story of Sadie, a shy but apparently artistic and slightly androgynous girl whom we gather from a few stilted vignettes is a misfit at home and school. Within minutes, a darkly charismatic and vaguely mod Nico enters her life and draws the initially inert neophyte into a (somewhat) messier world of late-teen relationships, drugs and snorkel jackets. Perhaps for the best, there is nothing overly ambitious here and the broadening of Sadie’s horizons is explored with a kind of lugubrious anti-climactic authenticity. Life really is this dull, mysterious and banal for most teenagers, even ones trying hard to define themselves with props from another, supposedly more glamorous, era.
Still, Cassidy’s narrative suffers from her inability to connect her passion for Carnaby Street to her characters in any meaningful way. And the way she has her camera stop and gawk at every consumption of an illegal substance along with the homage to and insertion of clips from iconic vintage cinema suggests that Cassidy is as eager to prove her coolness as Nico. But, what does work here is the confident way in which Cassidy lets her camera linger on the (albeit blank) faces of her protagonists and the beginnings of a witty sense of timing as she plays with her mod montages.
Cassidy also shows some savvy in selecting interesting faces with which to fill her screen. Sadie is played by the boyishly beautiful Melia Renee, whom despite a mask of inexpression, offers a pair of very soulful eyes. Mary Elise Hayden makes for a confidently credible Nico and smoothly transcends some of Cassidy’s more stilted moments, but Nico is nevertheless a stock character painted with greater depth and pathos in other better films. The girls’ strange and tenuous connection aptly mimics all such immature relationships, but even when they move beyond friendship we have learned nothing about them.