Apart (Aaron Rottinghaus, 2011)
Sitting not terribly far beneath the surface of Apart is the best young adult movie you’ve ever seen. There are times—more than a few of them—that movie almost managed to come bubbling to the surface. Rottinghaus, normally an assistant editor (he has recently had a steady gig on the hit TV show Big Love), went very, very ambitious with his directorial debut. He almost succeeded. The story, which he co-wrote with male lead Josh Danziger, could have probably used another rewrite or two to help knock some of the less coherent bits into line; that would have made this into something that would have had a very, very good chance of landing pretty high up on my thousand-best list. Yes, the movie under the surface here is that good. Unfortunately, it has a nasty habit of shooting itself in the foot. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it—in fact, I think you probably should, and sooner rather than later—but you may well end up as frustrated as I was at getting the movie we got given how often you can see the movie we should have had.
Noah (Danziger, whose only other big-screen appearance to date came in 2006’s The Lonely Ones) has been Away, in the sense that one is Away in movies, for some time. He has recently returned to his childhood hometown, of which he has no memory whatever. High school is just as much fun as it is anywhere, else, but soon he encounters Emily (High School Musical‘s Olesya Rulin), and suddenly he has a reason to go to high school. She, on the other hand, seems to want nothing to do with him, and Noah assumes it’s just a case of unrequited infatuation. Until, that is, Emily lets slip during an emotional outburst that she knew Noah Before, in the sense that one has Before in movies. Suddenly, Noah has a link to his mysterious past, and he sets about trying to unlock a mystery he had given up on ever understanding.
A lot of good ideas here, but the script stumbles in a number of places. It occurred to me more than once while I was watching that the co-writers should have had a solid, underrated YA author—Mara Purnhagen or Pete Hautman or someone comparable—go over the script before they finalized it to check plot and pacing. Some of the more questionable scenes could have been streamlined, a few unanswered questions would have been wrapped up, etc. What’s here will likely be more appealing to those who can recognize and appreciate the potential in a script, but what’s here is not bad at all. ** ½