Ethan Hawke’s feckless, dope-growing Les welcomes his estranged teenage son Jude (Asa Butterfield) to late-1980s New York in this touching coming-of-age movie.
Les (‘The road to hell is paved with fun’) lives in the East Village’s grungy, graffiti-covered Alphabet City, a neighbourhood of punks, squatters and the homeless.
Bored and disaffected back home in snowy Vermont, Jude and his best friend Teddy (Avan Jogia) got their kicks sniffing solvents but, given total freedom in New York after tragic events propel him there, Jude begins to straighten himself out.
He looks up Teddy’s older half-brother, Johnny (Emile Hirsch), a hardcore punk singer who follows a ‘straight-edge’ lifestyle, shunning sex and drugs. He also seeks out Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld), the restless daughter of Les’ posh, well-heeled English girlfriend Diane (Emily Mortimer) and the girl with whom he and Teddy spent a freewheeling New Year’s Eve in Vermont the year before.
The relationships that ensue from these encounters are messy and awkward. And so, to a certain extent, is the film, adapted by writer-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini from Eleanor Henderson’s novel.
However, there’s a sweetness underlying the film’s mix of comedy and drama that gets under your skin, if you give it a chance, and the performances are terrific.