Anthem of a Teenage Prophet is about Luke (Cameron Monaghan), a teenager from the sleepy Michigan town of Stokum, who has a startling vision of his best friend’s death while they smoke weed together.
Producer Robin Hays adds to her directing credits with her first feature, following on from shorts Post no Bills (2017) and Bug Hutch (2009).
Anthem of a Teenage Prophet is a low-key coming of age sci-fi. Strong from the outset, it loses its way as the film progresses. Todd M Duym provides beautiful cinematography: The quiet landscape echoes the usually peaceful lives of the characters.
Anthem feels a little like a short film with extra space injected into it. Inspired by the Joanne Proulx novel Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet. The book is described as darkly comic, but that hasn’t translated into the film. Despite depicting tragedy, Anthem was flat – it should have fostered more emotion than it did. By the end I barely had a mild curiosity to see how it played out, rather than investment in the fate of the characters. The story promised the likes of Special (2006), but sadly fell short.
My interest was piqued at the appearance of Juliette Lewis as Luke’s suburban mom. The wild kids from early 90s coming-of-age films have grown up (see also Winona Ryder in Stranger Things). Throughout the film Lewis and Monaghan’s unscripted interactions play well.
Set in the late 90s, Anthem of a Teenage Prophet is no nostalgia fest, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching today’s teens minus the iPhones. There is something so self-assured about teenagers today that these characters shared – even the awkward ones – in the way they communicate. One reason for the film not being anchored in that era is its soundtrack. Despite Luke conspicuously listening to rap on his walkman, the rest of the music shifts back and forth between late 80s and mid 2000s to confusing effect. This isn’t to say that a film soundtrack ought to match the time in which it is set, but it doesn’t help here.
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