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David Gordon Green sometimes comes across as a gifted poet who hasn't yet mastered prose; his characters and images are memorable, but this story about working-class kids, most of them black, in a small town in North Carolina is elusive and occasionally puzzling. Working with nonprofessional actors who improvise some of their dialogue, Green seems at certain junctures to be brandishing strangeness like a crown, but the lyricism of his 'Scope framings, junkyard settings, and extremely vulnerable teenage characters registers loud and clear even when some of his ideas come across as amorphous or self-conscious. Though the film isn't especially violent, particularly by contemporary standards, it arguably has more to say about the desperation behind the Columbine High School killings than any number of editorials. You have to bring a lot of yourself to this film if you want it to give something back, but the rewards are considerable. 89 min.

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