august at twenty-two: Standing on the Edge of Adulthood

Sometimes, when standing on the cusp of adulthood, we can find ourselves unwilling to take the next step.

Directed by Sophia Castuera, august at twenty-two tells the story of Cal (Ali Edwards), a struggling actress who is looking for her big break. When she’s invited to a party, she’s excited to see Jacob (Clay Singer), an old flame that she hopes will want to reconnect. However, she is surprised to learn that he is in a relationship with Emily (Lilli Kay), a confident young woman who gets Cal’s attention. As Emily and Cal begin to spend more time together, Cal wonders if the spark between them is something real—and will help her find what she’s looking for.

Written by Edwards, august at twenty-two is a sweet and honest film that taps into a struggle that hits every generation. Reminiscent of films such as singles and Reality Bites of the 90s, august wants to portray the challenges of adulthood as authentically as possible. Here, there are few moments of high drama. Instead, we become a fly on the wall of conversations that are unfolding around us. These are characters who are sitting in the awkwardness of reality with characters who are merely looking for hope on the other side.

Taking lessons from the mumblecore movement of the early 2000s, august’s conversations between characters feel improvised. Castuera allows for her characters interactions to feel genuine and muted. These types of performances require genuine connection from the cast and thankfully, there seems to be a genuine trust between them. This helps creates an atmosphere of ease (and unease, when necessary) that keeps the film feeling small in scope but vital to its character’s emotional journey.

And, frankly, what makes august work is its normalcy. This is a film that taps into a moment in one’s life that feels common to all. The struggle to find one’s passion in the workforce or separate oneself from their parents is simply part is a universal experience for all who are stepping out into adulthood. As such, this is a movie about that awkward phase when the future feels far off, but the past feels distant. 

As Cal attempts to find herself in a world in the world, she seems as lost as everyone else. Jacob is interested in opening up his relationship, even though they seem happy together. Emily seems confident yet also uncertain of her own identity. (As a matter fact, the character most at home in their own skin is best friend Bobby, an LGBTQ male who knows who he is and what he wants to do.) 

In this way, august speaks to the ways that we can get lost within a world that is constantly changing around us. Struggling as an actress and frustrated with her life, Cal struggles to make sense of her own identity. But, as she reaches out to her father with her hurts and frustrations, she feels dismissed. Even though he thinks he understand, his world simply doesn’t exist anymore. As a result, she is left to fill the hole within her soul that continues to grow. 

For Cal, this is a time of growth and transition. She knows that she has flaws but she seems unaware of what they are and how to work on them. For example, as Jacob suggests that everyone should be working to make themselves better, Cal simply replies that ‘that sounds exhausting.’ To her, the pieces of her life should fall into place on their own, without the work of putting them together herself. 

While august at twenty-two may slip under the radar, there’s an openness and humility about it that make it accessible to all. While the script may or may not stem from Edwards’ own personal journey, there’s no question that it taps into an anxiety about that tension between earnestness of youth and the responsibility of adulthood. Those moments may break us down but they also help define us in the next phase of our lives.

august at twenty-two is available on VOD on Tuesday, July 25, 2023.

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