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Courtesy of Internet Movie Database

Citizen Jane’s 'The View From Tall' is eye-opening

The movie explores the moral ambiguity of teenage transgressions.

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Most movies with teen female protagonists end with the unpopular girl getting the guy of her dreams, or better yet, her best friends back. The simple conclusion leaves us wanting more, but satisfied overall with the next chapter for the characters.

The View From Tall isn’t like those other movies. Produced by 22-year-old Amanda Pflieger, co-directed by Erica Weiss and Caitlin Parrish and written years ago by Parrish when she was 17, this play-turned-movie is a strong coming of age classic that isn’t typical at all.

Justine, the protagonist of this film, is a senior in high school who has a fling with her English teacher. The problem is, for Justine, it wasn’t just a fling. After her teacher leaves, she is forced to deal with the fallout all on her own. Her family and peers constantly question her motives and beliefs in this film where the thin line between right and wrong is hard to see.

Shown during the Citizen Jane Film Festival, the movie successfully tackles the issues students go through after being romantically involved with an authority figure.

“This kind of stuff happens a lot,” Pflieger said in a post-movie discussion. “Here, we’re showing [the students’] side.”

At the beginning of the movie, viewers get one clear shot of Justine. She seems to be trying to tell us something. Then, the shot changes and we see her speaking not to us, but to herself, practicing what she’s going to say in the mirror. She puts on her headphones and begins her day to the lyrics “can’t you see I’m trying.”

From the beginning of the film, I was hooked. Justine reminds me of every strong, funny girl I’ve ever met and shows her sense of humor well throughout the movie.

Justine’s parents force her into therapy, where she meets wheelchair-bound Dr. Douglas Cecil. Beginning as her therapist, he later becomes her companion throughout the rest of the movie. Douglas and Justine take on challenges both on their own and together, all under the judgemental eyes of Justine’s sister Paula.

Paula is a very dynamic character in the film, beginning as a girl who hates her sister and shares her secrets. Parrish has created a very real relationship between the siblings, who only have each other while living under their parents’ roof.

The movie goes on to explore the growing friendship between Douglas and Justine. Written in such a way that makes it difficult to guess how things would turn out for the pair, I sat on the edge of my seat until the very turning point of their relationship. Even after the climax, I found myself eagerly waiting for the next step for the characters, asking myself, “Are they going to be best friends or are they going to sleep together?”

Douglas grows as a character to overcome what he can of his disability, the relationships he lost because of it and the death of his father. His newfound positivity affects Justine in great ways, and instead of shaming her for being the way she is, he accepts her. This helps her learn to accept herself before leaving for college in Seattle.

The pacing of the movie was just right for us to follow Justine, who can finally overcomes the harassment, embarrassment and loneliness of her situation.

The View From Tall was a great movie depicting the troubles of a normal teenager, and, in true Citizen Jane fashion, it shows the struggle of being a smart girl in today’s culture. The film was gripping from the start to finish.

The end of the film left many in the audience wiping tears away after an emotional final scene. Justine, with her belongings packed into her car, leaves Paula, Douglas and her hometown to head for the highway. With an excellent final shot, we leave Justine as we found her, up close and personal; this time smiling and about to head on her journey of self-discovery.

Edited by Katherine White | kwhite@themaneater.com

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