Antarctica wears its influences on its sleeve. It’s hard not to spot the tropes present in other recent coming of age films: the “girls gone bad” anarchy of Booksmart, the fraught mother-daughter relationship of Lady Bird and the dogmatic school doctrine of Eighth Grade. Aping your contemporaries is a risky game, but Antarctica plays it even riskier by injecting a hefty dose of surrealism and pushing its teen subjects to the brink of collapse, and benefits greatly from it.

The setup is simple: two friends vs. the senior year of high school. But Antarctica also thrusts unexpected pregnancy, sex rehab, a gun-toting janitor and a female-oriented relaxant drug that causes cosmic hallucinations upon the duo. It sounds bananas, but strangely it works, and the film’s unflinching treatment of its leads might be one of the best allegories for growing up as a young woman in a world rigged against you. It occasionally could do with being decidedly less pacy, but the excellent, committed performances and killer chemistry of stars Chloë Levine and newcomer Kimie Muroya keep the film rooted to its principles without totally weirding out the audience.

Writer and director Keith Bearden may have created the perfect metaphor for female adolescence in small-town America; when life is close to overwhelming you, a film consisting of a 17 year-old throwing rocks into a lake and moping won’t cut it. Sometimes, you need to have her falling in love with a chronically ill hallucinatory astronaut. Strangely, it works.

Antarctica avoids being just another navel-gazing look at young adulthood by building on the work of its contemporaries and raising the stakes, creating a dreamlike world for the leads to inhabit and fall apart in – probably the ideal way to encapsulate teenage life in an 80-minute film.



CAST: Chloë Levine, Kimie Muroya, Bubba Weiler

DIRECTOR: Keith Bearden

WRITER: Keith Bearden

SYNOPSIS: Two life-long best friends face a tidal wave of adult pressures and problems as they face down their last year of high school in small-town USA.