“Regionrat”, based on the Richard Laskowski novel of the same name, follows Ray (Connor Williams), a broke and lonely young man who spends six months trying to make it in Seattle before deciding to move back to his hometown to finish high school. He runs into trouble before long, however, when the high school cutie Erin (Natassia Halabi) starts to hit on him, causing him to attract the ire of her jealous boyfriend Colin (Grafton Doyle).
Regionrat’s greatest strengths lie in its characters and the way they’re written. The dialogue sounds authentic – in that Ray and his peers talk and act like real teenagers do – and their camaraderie feels genuine. I’ve seen few films that capture the vitriolic yet heartwarming nature of teen friendships as well as this movie does; the characters are harsh with each other, but there’s an underlying layer of care beneath that.
Furthermore, even though the film does a fine job getting us invested in Ray’s situation, the story is told with enough irreverence and snark that the stakes don’t feel artificially high. Ray frequently calls attention to the ridiculousness of the fact that Colin is out for his blood on the basis of one or two interactions with Erin. In another scene, two of Ray’s friends get into a tussle over their romantic rivalry, while Ray sits in the background smoking a bong, completely ignoring the chaos in front of him. It’s that kind of self-awareness that makes the film feel richer than most other high school- centered dramas.
But that only makes the story all the more tragic when the consequences of that petty drama become more and more dire. Threats and intimidation escalate into fistfights and arrests, the relationships between the characters break down, and Ray eventually starts to fear for his life. All the while, we’re reminded that this was the exact sort of situation that Ray wanted to avoid when he moved back.
In short, Regionrat is a film that’s bound to hit close to home for anyone who’s found themselves exasperated by the inanity of high school drama but unable to escape it – and even if you haven’t, it’s a charming, compelling story from start to finish.