The Wise Kids
Discovering one's sexuality and coming out challenges any teenager who's still searching for his or her identity. Add in any religious constraints, and that must be excruciating. Religion muddies the waters and makes everything look murky. Ardent religious beliefs hide many things, including unhappy marriages, identity and unfulfilled goals. These stresses force people to either seek solace in religion or in their own belief system.
That's the premise of writer/director Stephen Cone's compelling film "The Wise Kids." Set among a Baptist community in Charleston, South Carolina, the film's main focus is the pastor's daughter Brea (Molly Kunz). She's a fresh-faced senior with long curly hair (think Keri Russell in Felicity) who remains loyal to her friends while being true to herself by analyzing anything she feels might be questionable. All the teenagers look refreshingly like actual teenagers in this film.
Brea begins to doubt her beliefs, and even the existence of God, when her close friend Tim reveals he's gay -- the Bible says it's wrong, after all. And Brea's friend Laura says she can provide the biblical passages that mention homosexuality's immorality. While Laura chooses to pray for Tim, Brea goes online and searches alternative religions and religious contradictions.
Brea discusses her misgivings with Tim. He responds: "I'm still totally a believer in Christ... I've gotta pray about it." He even asks Brea if it would be okay if he prays for her. Tim's father supports his son and expresses his pride that Tim will be going to The New School to study filmmaking in the fall.
"The Wise Kids" allows these teenagers to be who they want to be without judgments. It's wonderful and heartening, and tends more toward the philosophical with its genuine, warm nature. It's a delight to watch this honest and sweet film.