In 1972 Glasgow, young John (Forrest) is a bright spark who certainly will never become a "Non-Educated Delinquent". He lives on a rough estate, and as he heads for secondary school he begins to be targeted by the bullying local gang members. But he keeps his head down, hides behind the fierce reputation of his big brother (Szula) and excels at his studies. Then two years later, John (now McCarron) falls in with a group of thugs who offer him acceptance and camaraderie. Of course his studies start suffering as a result.
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Taken from the loving arms of his foster parents by unstable mom Sarah (Argento), Jeremiah (Jimmy Bennett for the first half; Dylan and Cole Sprouse for the latter section) finds himself unwillingly thrust into an itinerant life of substance abuse and sex-for-sale, a babe cast into the big bad woods of Middle American tract house communities and interstate truck stops. An odyssey of innocence parentally defiled, Argento's film strives, from the opening shot of a stuffed animal being waved in Jeremiah's face, to assume the perspective of her pint-sized protagonist, both through straightforward knee-high point-of-view shots as well as by grotesquely distorting her carnival-esque compositions to create a mood of terrified awe and dread. The result is a funhouse-mirror vibe rooted in squalor, from the decrepit apartments that Sarah and Jeremiah temporarily occupy with her assortment of boyfriends, to the parking lots where she plies her trade as a prostitute, to a combustible crack kitchen where the filth is so tangible that it can almost be felt creeping under one's fingernails. Still, working with cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards, Argento carefully balances these more out-there inclinations - felt most strikingly in Jeremiah's visions of cawing, flesh-eating red crows - with conventional setups and chronology, thereby deftly maintaining a tremulous sense of coherence even as her narrative begins spiraling into madness.
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The title character (Victor Rasuk) is an 18-year-old Lower East Side playa-wannabe: The film's opening finds him undressing for a neighborhood girl, derisively called "Fat Donna." Though that encounter is interrupted, Victor and his friend are soon hitting on two girls at the local swimming pool, where Victor falls for Judy (Judy Marte), who ignores him. Rejection isn't about to slow him down, though. Victor recruits Judy's younger brother (Wilfree Vasquez) to reintroduce them, and thus the two kids begin an awkward process of letting their guards down.
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