Freshman Year (A.K.A. Shithouse) (2020)

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This odd and meandering meditation on adolescent vulnerabilities slowly warms your heart as you watch college freshman Alex (writer, director and star Cooper Raiff) get a grip on life.

Alex has no friends at college and relies on daily phone calls to his sympathetic mother (Amy Landecker). He pretends to her that he has friends but all he has is a stuffed blue heeler toy that he has long conversations with and an obnoxious, slacker room mate, Sam (Logan Miller). When he meets and hooks up with Maggie (Dylan Gelula), his world becomes brighter but his cluelessness sees it all go awry.

I watched this movie hard on the heels of seeing my daughter’s directorial debut of Rules of Love and it felt like I was seeing an extension into a narrative of the same crippling insecurities of life and love at that age. There are some lovely, heartfelt moments that feel authentic – when Alex and Maggie open up about their pasts it is reminiscent of so many late-night confidences that turn strangers into friends.

Alex’s privilege is made clear and although it is not a certainty that it is being deliberately critiqued, it is definitely a key component of his man-baby persona. His incapability of functioning as an adult may stem directly from the loving, supportive parenting as shown by his mother; her need to protect him from harm is an excuse he can use to avoid stepping out of his comfort zone. Maggie is the other side of that coin; indifferent to his vulnerabilities as she is consumed with her own and this, it seems, is just what he needs.

The film is full of warmth and you can’t help wanting the best for them all, even awful Sam.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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