A thoughtful and evocative coming-of-age drama, THE WISE KIDS takes place in the transitional space between high school and college, when life seems to be all questions and no answers, and the future is scarily wide open. Set in and around a Charleston, SC Baptist church, weaving through this ensemble piece are three main characters – Brea, an introspective pastor’s daughter experiencing debilitat…ing doubt; the hyperactive Laura, Brea’s best friend and a devout believer; and Tim, the open-hearted son of a single father, confronting his homosexuality for the first time. Tensions and buried feelings abound, as colleges are chosen and adults behave badly, as Brea, Laura and Tim attempt to hang onto what they have, all the while yearning to break free.
NOTE DI REGIA:
Whenever I tackle themes of faith, the work tends to come off as either an indicting love letter or a loving indictment. Which seems about right. My upbringing as the son of a Southern Baptist minister was largely a happy one, but I continue to wrestle with the balancing act that is embracing, loving and respecting my Bible-believing friends – many of whom are as smart and kind and human as anyone I know – and bafflement at the so very many things that are taken and accepted, simply, on faith, sometimes at the cost of others, or of common sense and decency. Further, I am fascinated by the idea of living in bodies – more specifically, the idea that people of faith are forced to inhabit bodies they live in hope of shedding. What does it mean to be a believer and a human being at the same time? To prioritize the soul while negotiating and navigating the physical self? Does one negate the other? Does it have to? These are the questions THE WISE KIDS was born out of. They are questions I’ve been asking for as long as I remember, and to which I see no end to the asking. (Stephen Cone)
“…But the plotline is not the average-gay-youth-rejected-by-Church archetype, something overplayed in media outlets today. Rather, Cone’s film avoids blanketing the issue of gay youth in church communities as against Christian values because it’s simply not the only outcome. Over and over, the film demonstrates the nuances of the experiences of some gay youth in more conservative Christian churches. This nuance is intentional for Cone. At the showing of the film in Brooklyn on Saturday night, director, writer, co-producer, and co-star Stephen Cone took the time to answer questions from audience members. He shared his goal to tell the story in a humanistic way, and to treat the characters as individual people. Cone’s mastery of subtlety, combined with honest exploration of a story rarely told, provides viewers with a seemingly unmediated account of three human beings – not three Baptists, not three Southerners, and not three conflicted teenagers.
Perhaps the best feature of Cone’s work is room left for the viewer, which is what he strives for in the film. Cone says, “The films and stories I love are the ones that allow the audience to fill in the blanks […] Anything else is so complete as to be useless. Stories with no room have nothing to offer up upon reflection, or down the road. And they aren’t very much like life. Life is very roomy.” In many ways, the movie serves as a positive representation of gay experience within communities of faith. Cone says about the coming-out character Tim:
I guess I was interested in doing something a little different with Tim in choosing not to go the angst-ridden, tortured and excommunicated route. I know we’re going through a horrendous period of bullying and torment, and there are kids in terrible pain and heartbreak, but I also think there’s light at the end of the tunnel in regards to how quickly society is moving forward on this. And, while I know Tim’s experience is not going to necessarily reflect that of a portion of the audience, I just hope the positive nature of his relationship with himself and his family and his God will at least provide a source of light for those still in the darkness, even if they’re not seeing themselves in him just yet.
Although everyone will relate to The Wise Kids from a different perspective, ReRun employee Hunter Muse said that audience members have offered quite positive reviews overall. She says, “We’ve had a consistent response to the film, people LOVE it…the common comment is that it should be required viewing in churches, schools and youth groups.” Cone sees the film as being relevant beyond the LGBT community. In fact, Cone has a broader audience in mind. He says:
Well, one can always say the intended audience is people who like great independent films, but I don’t think that counts. If I was to name a more specific group of folks, it would probably be teenagers. I really want teenagers – both those in high school and those entering college – to know about this film, and see it, and share it with each other. ” (GLAAD)