Back in 2004 a somewhat unknown film maker who at the time only had one short film under his directorial filmography, released a coming of age film to the world that would rival the very idea of what a coming of age film should be like, that film was Mean Creek.
Admittedly It has become a forgotten film in recent years, but that doesn’t dispute the fact that Mean Creek is perhaps the most unique of coming of age films. Well, speaking for the coming of age films released in the 21st century at least. Mean Creek’s story revolves around a cast of youths (two of which are played by Rory Culkin and Josh Peck) taking a boat trip into a river with the plan of enacting revenge on a school bully, but what starts off as a simple prank ends up in a very grave situation as George the bully…dies.
What then ensues is a surrounding circle of brilliant performances as each of the characters contemplate what to do next. And as someone who was a teen in recent memory, I have to say that there isn’t a single character in this film that I didn’t relate to in some way. Even Millie, the single girl amongst the cast has some relatable qualities in the sense of how she herself deals with the situation.
Perhaps though, the best part of the film is how well the character of George (played by Peck) is written and discussed onscreen. In what could have been just a simple throwaway bully, actually turned out to be one of the most honestly portrayed characters I’ve ever seen in cinema. On very rare occasion within this subgenre is a stereotype erased for the sake of giving enough time to actually create a character worth representing.
Not only is George deeper than just being a bully, but he’s also (as it turns out) actually a vulnerable and somewhat helpless young man, that just needs someone to be there with him. Just like most school yard bullies.
In fact I’d say that every young actor in this film is the best representation of their generation’s youthful individuals. And that’s speaking as someone who fitted into that group not so long ago.
Mean Creek is one of the most relatable and one of the most honest portrayals of my generation and previous generations past, and It deserves so much more admiration than It gets. It does sadden me however that Jacob Aaron Estes doesn’t seem to work too often these days as he really does have a lot to be proud of with this film.