Teen Spirit (directed by Max Minghella) was on my watch list for quite some time and I can’t believe I waited this long to catch it. Not only was I excited to witness Minghella’s directorial debut, but I was very intrigued by Elle Fanning’s singing. Neither one disappointed. Minghella’s vision was beautifully portrayed on screen.
Teen Spirit is an amalgamation of a modern Cinderella story, teen angst, and perhaps a touch of film noir with Violet’s moody pessimism and Mighella’s use of light, dark and shadow. All of that, mixed with Fanning’s voice, and my intrigue continued throughout the whole film. Her voice is so unique and soulful. It’s a voice that I didn’t know I needed until I heard it.
We immediately get a sense that the shy, introspective, and jaded Violet (Elle Fanning) is not impressed with her mundane life. Keeping busy with work on her family farm, a part time job and school, Violet is just going through the motions to earn money for her and her mother (Agnieszka Grochowska) to live. There is a clear lack of joy in her life. We come to learn of a past trauma and how that continues to affect her and the way she lives in the present day. She bottles her feelings.
Violet doesn’t seem to have any real human connection. We feel significant distance with her mother, as well as the lack of a father figure. She also doesn’t appear to have any true friends. She even goes so far as to say “I don’t believe in love. Love’s not real.” Violet only finds solace with her horse. This is, of course, until she stumbles across Vlad (Zlatko Buric), an unsuspecting hero of sorts. Over time, he almost becomes some kind of father figure to Violet.
Violet has a yearning to sing. It is her one and only passion and so much so that we don’t really see her smile until she actually starts doing what she loves. When she finally starts doing what she loves, we slowly begin to see her come to life, improving relationships and expressing herself more.
The incredible upbeat pop music of the soundtrack is a departure from the overall tone of the film, but was clearly expertly hand-picked. Songs such as “Dancing On My Own” and “Don’t Kill My Vibe” and lyrics like “Mama I feel so low; Mama where do I go?” are very telling as to how Violet felt in those moments.
No spoilers, but I thought it was very smart of Minghella to put the results of the competition in the end credits. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter who won because Teen Spirit was about Violet’s journey and her coming of age all along.