The 15 Must-See Coming Of Age Films Of 2019
Growing up takes a lot out of a person. A child’s entire life is defined by the period where he actually ends up understanding how to deal with everything. The emotions, the sexual preferences, the ambition and the toxicity that needs to be dealt with. The coming of age films of 2019 came from a very personal space. The coming of age arc of the movies of 2019 often fell into the cliche territory. However, these 15 films somehow managed to stand on their own – carving a lasting impression on anyone who has struggled to deal with a certain period of their lives.
Honorable Mention: Before we get into the list, here are the films that just missed it by a small margin. Alex Wolff’s debut film “The Cat and the Moon,” where he showcases the heartbreak of having to start over and falling in love in the most ominous and life-altering manner and Jérémy Clapin’s imaginative “I Lost My Body,” where a young man’s coming of age arc is fulfilled by literally losing a part of himself.
Mati Diop’s haunting supernatural fantasy doesn’t stray far away from the shore. In all it’s quaint strangeness, it is a pretty basic story about love and self-fulfillment. In her tonally imbalanced yet mature debut, Diop constructs a dreamy fallacy about Ada’s repressed desires. In doing so, she also represents a tale about global crises. Blending social realism with lyrical notes of horror, Diop runs through gender roles and how standing against the tide is the biggest quest of them all.
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14. Jojo Rabbit
Taika Waititi came to limelight with the light-hearted vampire mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows.” The mainstream acclaim came to him when he stuffed his endearing, child-like aesthetics to the narrative of the God of Thunder. With “Jojo Rabbit” he tries to balance the tough slope of mainstream aesthetics with winning indie spirit. The result is an ambitious anti-war satire where a child’s imaginary best friend is the Nazi fascist Hitler. Playful, funny and relevant to the world we live in today, Jojo Rabbit condemns violence with a gaze that dances with adolescent imagination taking hold over itself.
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In Alejandro Landes’ film, a bunch of gorilla soldiers have succumbed to a life that doesn’t identify with their age. They have been trained (probably forced to) withdraw away from normalcy. The cult-like, sexualized rituals they follow have given them self-attested entitlement where there’s no room for emotional decadence. It’s a strange place in which “Monos” dribbles. It is, by all means, a dark, intense and unforgiving coming of age film that might just be one of the most daring films of 2019.
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12. The King
While David Michôd’s “The King” could be easily dismissed as a substandard Shakespearean adaption; there’s no way one can dismiss the rich coming of age story at its center. Submerged in a downtrodden, violent push and pull of power struggle, Michôd’s film traces the various terrains that the young king has to go under. His identity crises, pre-assigned and imposed responsibilities are deemed unfair as political bureaucracies take the upper stand. The third act also hints towards the fragility of masculinity and how it is something that isn’t taught but selfishly picked up from the surroundings.
11. Little Women
A delightful, timely upgrade on the “Little Women” story, Greta Gerwig’s adaption of the classic doesn’t nudge it’s sacred source material and yet modernizes its sweet essence. In this version of the traditional melodrama, Gerwig lets her frantic energy seen in her first feature take a backseat; carving a triumphant tale about owning your own story. An observational, decidedly feminist and truely charming story that is definitely one of the better coming-of-age films of 2019.
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10. Aga’s House
Lendita Zeqiraj’s debut feature film “Aga’s House” is a story of a boy living in a house full of women. While Zeqiraj’s detailed narrative has more than the basic coming of age arc on its mind; the titular sense of place is dedicated to young Aga’s fragile adolescence. His quest to get to his father is punctuated with a parallel narrative of women displaced from their native homes. The struggle also includes a particularly interesting conflict that inturn teaches the boy to live a life that is not just fun and games.
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9. Corpus Christi
Jan Komasa’s Oscar-nominated feature is basically about faith and redemption. Daniel played by a flawless Bartosz Bielenia stars as a 20-something who is recently released from juvenile prison. Forced to choose a life that would never forgive him for what he has done, Daniel somehow ends up being the priest of a town grieving from a recent death-row. What follows is a dark, mesmerizing drama about the slow and subtle realization that we are entirely responsible for our actions and that monitoring them becomes the ultimate purpose of life.
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“Luce” is one of the biggest surprises of 2019. A socio-psychological thriller that intensifies like a ticking bomb. Powered by a bombastic performance by Kelvin Harrison Jr. the film settles onto modern-day conveniences to question where a child’s real character lies. The interesting part of Luce is the kind of uncertainty it leaves you with. It keeps you guessing about its true colors only to ambiguously drench you with uncomfortable questions. A powerful tool to deep-dive into the puddle of learning to live with yourself while also reflecting on the expectations set by people about who you are.
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7. Honey Boy
“Honey Boy” is a film that doesn’t leave your mind long after you have seen it. The reason is the kind of uniqueness director Alma Har’el and writer Shia LaBeouf manage to conjure out of this pretty done-to-death coming of age troop. Honey Boy is a deeply-personal, therapeutic and heartfelt film that doesn’t overplay with its dreamlike capability and serves as a cathartic experience for anyone who needs to know that learning and growing up keeps hitting your over and over – until you actually learn to hit back and level up.
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6. House of Hummingbird
Bora Kim’s debut film is an astonishing drama about a neglected teenager. Set in a rapidly-changing time in South Korea, this tale of an introverted young girl trying to find the essence of life doesn’t feel dated. It’s is one of the most quietly powerful coming-of-age films of 2019. It talks about acceptance like no other film of 2019 does. It also subtly talks about abuse and a lonely distant experience that most children have to face in a middle-class family. Featuring a brilliant, life-like performance by Ji-hu Park, the film manages to showcase a kind of longing in her eyes that can only be felt by someone who has witnessed something similar.
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5. Light of My Life
Casey Affleck’s endearing tale of living a hand to mouth existence is powered by a strong undercurrent of trying to understand the life that will follow for the young kid he is trying to protect. In a world where there are no women anymore, Rag (A superb Anna Pniowsky) symbolizes hope. However, Affleck – who also co-stars as the over-protective and over-bearing father, Rag symbolizes an entity that reminds him of his human side. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Affleck’s searing, slow-burning drama is about realizing when his seedling should be allowed to grow on its own and for the seedling to realize that forging a life and future is in its own hands.
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4. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Joe Talbot’s breathtaking first picture is a testament to anyone who finds it difficult to leave a home that has taught them everything. Framed to perfection and shot with shrill energy that encompasses that sadness and melancholy of having a home, only to realize that it no more serves the purpose that it was supposed to. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” tells a tale of self-realization – motioning the camera through familiar places and things that feel like home. However, it also cements the hard-earned fact that moving on in life is as essential as sticking around.
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Shannon Murphy’s “Babyteeth” is a film that is waiting to scream at the top of its lungs only to smear under the weight of its painkillers. It’s a hysterical, deranged cancer rom-com that cleverly subverts almost every genre troop to tell the tale of a young girl who discovers love in the final leg of her life. Murphy – who could have easily succumbed to turning the film into sympathy-porn actualizes the need for mending all the broken people at the center of Babyteeth. She dislodges their current status to give them a small, unkempt chance of hope.
Trey Edward Shults’ “Waves” is a bold and ambitious film that doesn’t care for how tonally distant it might just make you feel. It flows like an undercurrent of emotions, hitting the shore of small regrets and forced emotional turmoil that a person goes through in the contemporary world. Shults plays with the cinematic scope of audio-visual aesthetics to underwrite an operatic symphony of love. It’s a difficult, immersive experience that redefines anxiety-inducing cinema with an equally mature and understated look at the lives of two teenagers wrestling with their internal conflicts. This is a thematically petite story canvased into a humungous landscape that ultimately weighs heavy on anyone witnessing the distressing and calming effect it leaves you with.
1. The Souvenir
Julie is trying to make her first film and is also having her first serious relationship. Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical “The Souvenir” takes a seminal look at her own life, reiterating a self-destructive yet life-changing toxic romance. Filled with a sense of looking at memory through a kaleidoscope, this British drama has Hogg in full command of her craft retreating us into the life of a young woman trying to get the hold of her own. There’s no other way to put this is one of those films of 2019 that takes hold of it’s coming of age arc by diving into the life of a woman trying to develop her own artistic vision while life hits her tragically and squarely in a place where it hurts the most.