Afterschool takes a disturbing look inside the lives of young prep school students, using their obsession and envelopment with the internet as a device to show their isolation from one another. Rob, brilliantly portrayed by Ezra Miller, is totally enthralled with looking at clips on Youtube. He then accidentally witnesses/films the death of two of his fellow students, female twins who overdose in the hallway.
Rob looks up random videos all day on his computer, whether it be a video of a woman lying beside her giggling sextuplets, the execution of Saddam Hussein, or violent pornography where an off-screen male voice taunts young women verbally before firmly gripping them around the neck.
He is not an outcast at the school, and seems to get along well with his drug-dealing roommate and has a mutual flirtation with fellow classmate Amy, (Addison Timlin).The film is shot in such a way that you’re rarely shown the entire picture. Instead, the camera shows characters from the waist down, from the waist up, in extreme close up, or in flashes of smiles or cleavage. The effect of this can befrustrating at times, but nonetheless, the viewer is instantly transported into this world. This amateurish, shaky style of shooting makes it seem entirely plausible that the entire film itself is being shot by a student (or students) at the school.
Rob is asked to create a memorial video for the twins, and turns out a poignant, albeit disturbing film sans background music that depicts the twins as being popular and of an almost untouchable status at the school. The administration comes off as ridiculous in the film, and the students seem isolated, confused, and lost. This is, in fact, quite an apt representation of their school life, but of course Rob’s film teacher hates it. He chastises Rob for not setting the film to music, and churning out a more appropriate, respectful look at the twins’ lives. He states: “You can’t be serious” [about this video] and orders that it be immediately edited down to a typical memorial-type film, complete with background piano music.
Amy and Rob lose their virginity to one another in the woods, without speaking. Afterwards, in an unnervingly poignant shot, Rob removes his white undershirt and hands it to Amy, without speaking,who holds it between her legs. We can see that she is bleeding, and then cut away. This scene aides in the overall feeling that these students are not necessarily unkind, but instead totally cut off from one another, awkward, and unsure. Perhaps all adolescent experience is something like that.
The film turns darker when Rob begins to watch the film of the twins’ death over and over with his friends. He seems bizarrely unemotional about this experience and is virtually non-verbal in his counseling sessions, and the viewer begins to wonder what exactly was captured in the video. Arguably, it was Rob’s drug dealing roommate who supplied the girls, as they were frequent customers of his, so Rob has to deal with carrying that information around as well.
Afterschool is successful in a similar way to the movie Thirteen, although it’s less narrative and more experiential than that film. Both are gritty, violent, and off-putting at times, but are quite realistic depictions of the harsh realities of adolescent life.
DVD Bonus Features
Interview with Ezra Miller where he talks about how wonderful it was to work with the filmmakers of Afterschool, and how he bonded with his co-stars. He is personable, warm, speaks well.
"Afterschool" is on sale September 14, 2010 and is not rated. Drama. Written and directed by Antonio Campos . Starring Addison Timlin , Ezra Miller, Rosemarie DeWitt .