400 Screens, 400 Blows is a weekly column that takes an in-depth look at the films playing below the radar, beneath the top ten, and on 400 screens or less.
Every few months I find myself sitting down for another "coming of age movie." It's taken awhile, but I think I have these things sorted out now. There are essentially three categories. In the first, a young boy befriends a crusty, cynical man -- sometimes a grandfatherly old fellow. The man coaxes the boy out of his shell, and the boy reminds the old man of what it's like to live. Examples include Cinema Paradiso, About a Boy and the new Is Anybody There? In the next category, the boy befriends another boy (or girl) of roughly the same age. The second boy is knowledgeable, outgoing and/or unique and coaxes the first boy out of his shell. Examples include Son of Rambow or The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Then we get the "sexual awakening" kind of film, in which the boy falls in love with a grown woman, as in Malena or Mister Foe.