What nefarious secrets lurk behind the navy blazers, white shirts and black ties of today’s boarding-school kids? In his one-note debut, director Antonio Campos regales you with the awful truth: Alienation! Drugs! Rampant digicam use! This story of diffident prep-schooler Rob (Miller), who discovers two seniors in midoverdose, is little more than a meticulously shot and monotonously conceived exercise in arty disaffection. The public appetite for high-school high jinks may be limitless, but the pretentious camerawork and empty ideas of this feature-length mope yield little pleasure or insight.
Rob flirts numbly with his study partner, bickers with his drug-dealing roommate and weathers silent trauma over his fellow students’ deaths (which he taped). Campos, meanwhile, never misses a chance to convey the schoolwide epidemic of sinister blahs. To a parodic extent, scene after scene is framed self-consciously, if impeccably, off-center—hello, headless people—or scanned with ponderous, heavy-lidded pans. Hallways gleam under relentless fluorescence, and shocking video clips are de facto dorm-room viewing for teen existentialists. If you’ve ever balked at drifty solitude or video meta-hell in the films of Gus Van Sant or Michael Haneke, this pale imitation will drive you batty. Frankly, only the rampant homework copying, lugubrious parents and obsequious administration ring a bell.—Nicolas Rapold
Opens Fri; Cinema Village. Find showtimes
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