Mean Creek (2004)
Mean Creek is the young filmmaker Jacob Aaron Estes' first feature. The film was at both the Cannes and Sundance selections and did well at the Independent Spirits award as well. Why is not too difficult to see, because the issues handled here are both universal and highly current. What is even more prominent, however, is the natural beauty of this film - both in the terms of the wonderful Oregon locations and the attention Estes gives to them, but also when it comes to the interaction and the autenticity between the kids. For half its running time, Mean Creek is extremely engaging and challenging. There's an effective, smouldering tension building and Estes' dialogue is remarkably in tune.
Unfortunately, Estes isn't as subtle when it comes to the plotting. There's a very crucial scene in a boat, in which the Mechlowicz and Peck characters are aggravating each other, that simply lets the movie down. The following sequences are unimpressive, with Estes surrendering his characters to overplotting. The conclusion of Mean Creek isn't all bad, but the film can't keep its delightful spontaneity throughout.