Garrison Saenz and Kevin Conway star in "Only the Young." (Oscilloscope Laboratories )
Basically a video diary of an ingratiating, if unremarkable trio of teenage friends, the documentary "Only the Young" often seems to exist because well, it can. Co-directors Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims show genuine affection for their subjects but, despite some evocative visuals, never zero in on an involving structure or narrative.
The filmmakers focus as much on their young leads — Garrison Saenz, Kevin Conway and Skye Elmore — as they do on the kids' Canyon Country community, which is portrayed as a kind of fiscally failed hybrid of badlands and tract houses. This Santa Clarita Valley town feels so haunting and remote you'd never know it was only about 30 miles outside Los Angeles.
The teens here mark time in mostly random activities: skateboarding, small talk, a church-sponsored youth outreach program ("Skate for Christ!"), hanging out in an abandoned house and so on. And although we attend Kevin's high school graduation, oddly no time is spent in the school itself.
The emotional components ultimately work best here as these expressive, seemingly decent kids navigate friendship, faith, dating, absentee parents, financial strain and uncertain futures. Their apparent lack of personal ambition, however, could have used more specific exploration.
"Only the Young" rarely coalesces into anything more meaningful than a casual collection of moments. Maybe that's the point.
'Only the Young'
No MPAA rating
Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Playing: At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles
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