“I had revenge fantasies about taking wire cutters to this bully’s brakes and watching him fly into traffic...” There, in a cosy DVD chat, is helmer Jacob Aaron Estes’ inspiration for his eerie, intimate backwater debut, featuring moody teens, swamped in futility, selling their lives down the river.
When tubby bully George beats up timid dweeb Sam, the bloodied’s brother decides to teach fatso a lesson, tricking him onto a thoroughly miserable boat-trip with Marty (daddy issues), Clyde (sexuality issues) and apparently-well-adjusted-female, Millie. And then it goes very, very wrong.
Despite a jarring, unsatisfactory ending (a problem acknowledged in the extras), the film and its crowded-but-eloquent commentary (director, editor, cinematographer, three cast) ooze maturity – particularly for a debut. Mean Creek has a spirited stab at floating the Stand By Me boat, even if we’ll have to wait a while to stamp Estes as the new Rob Reiner.