Breaking Away (1979)
Of the many fine high school / coming-off-age films from the 1970s and 80s, this one from Steve Tesich and Peter Yates (Bullitt, Eyewitness) is among the most original, among other things because it largely steers clear of stereotypes, but more importantly because it handles general, universal issues through local, specific conditions. The alienation and inferiority these kids from college town Bloomington, Indiana feel is connected to the old dichotomy between workers and elite, illustrated here through the local so-called "cutters"' relation to the more privileged college students. The way to break away, claim Tesich and Yates, is by finding a passion for something, and pursue that to the fullest, illustrated here through our protagonist Dave's devotion to cycling. His passion is romanticised, idealised even, just like his love life, but instead of falling flat, which such a depiction could have in a lesser film by a lesser director, we acknowledge and appreciate that his romanticism and idealisation is one of the wonders of youth; perhaps his most potent tool. And this is a quality he ultimately comes to realize he should exploit to the fullest. It may not be revolutionary stuff, but it's a universal and resonant truth that anyone can relate to.