To be young is to be misunderstood, to be defiant and to be loyal to your closest comrades. These feelings are brought together in the documentary, Only The Young, a coming-of-age story directed by Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet.
The three main subjects may look like trouble upon first glance, however there is much more beyond the piercings, hair dye and punk rock t-shirts. The film opens with Kevin and Garrison skateboarding and hanging out in an abandoned building in southern California. An older gentleman recalls a story in which a teenager was on a roof and about to jump into a pool at night unaware that it was empty. "I think he was talking about me," Kevin says casually. Then we meet the eloquent Skye who talks about her relationship with the two boys and also discusses her family life: Mom is presumably dead and Dad is in jail. The three youths talk about an upcoming skateboarding competition that Kevin has been invited to in Arizona and he unexpectedly (to Skye) reveals to the camera that he once kissed Skye while she was intoxicated. This is a bit troubling to the shy Garrison who dated Skye but never kissed her. Buzz-cut Kevin shows his arm to the other two which has deep incisions spelling out some word. Garrison's reaction sets the tone for the rest of the film. His facial expression immediately changes and shows genuine concern for the well-being of Kevin, and speaks for Skye as well. What could have been a film about teen angst was instead stripped down to an examination of how the three individuals interact with one another.
The hairstyles change, girlfriends come and go and Skye provides some profound insight on her life and friendship with her two best friends. A key component to making this film engaging is that the locations are minimal. There could be scenes from high school, with family members and more skateboarding, however, in my opinion, it was an excellent move to always be moving back and forth between Garrison, Skye and Kevin and keep out the "noise". The ambience of Santa Clarita, California is definitely another character in this film and the mood conveys the feeling that everything is going to be all right for these kids.