By William Engel
Grief, bullying, teen suicide, domestic abuse, homophobia and drug addiction are just a few of the issues incorporated into the tumultuous plot of “Reach”, a heartrending drama about a developing friendship between two troubled youths.
The film follows Steven Turano (Garrett Clayton), a depressed high schooler who struggles to deal with the grief of losing his mother at a young age, and the torment he receives from his best-friend-turned-bully Nick (Jordan Doww). His suicidal plans are put on hold when he befriends Clarence West (Johnny James Fiore), a gregarious and multitalented new student. Eventually, though, he comes to realize that Clarence has been dealing with some demons of his own.
On introduction, Clarence comes off as a bit of a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu, if you prefer using the gender-specific variant). He’s delightfully quirky, his martial arts skills allow him to effortlessly subdue Nick, and to top it all off, he floors everyone at the school drama club with his acting chops. It seems as though the story is going to have him pull Steven from the grips of suicidal depression by virtue of his inexorable awesomeness, all while teaching him invaluable life lessons.
This all changes when we discover that Clarence has troubles of his own. Early in the movie, Steven outright questions why Clarence would choose to befriend him of all people, when logic would dictate that he could make friends with anyone he wanted. When you find out the answer halfway through the movie, it’s an absolute gut punch. It’s the moment when we’re forced to realize that Clarence isn’t Steven’s magical fix-your-life fairy, but a flawed, troubled human being who can barely keep his own life on track, let alone Steven’s. Along the way, we also learn of the fateful moment that lead to Steven and Nick having a falling out, and how Nick has had to deal with the aftermath.
That’s part of what makes “Reach” such an emotionally potent story. The characters feel like real people instead of plot devices. Nick doesn’t only exist to make Steven’s life a living hell, and Clarence doesn’t only exist to make Steven’s life better; they’re both fully realized characters, with their own lessons to learn and their own arcs to go through.
1h 32min | Comedy , Drama
Director: Leif Rokesh