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Time Out says
A teen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest filmed like The Idiots (on DV, vérité-style), Manic confidently establishes its own tone and milieu through a calmly justified faith in its material. The setting is a juvenile psychiatric facility, a tentative, recreation centre limbo between the free world and permanent confinement - some inmates go one way, some the other. Most come with exaggerations of normal teen dysfunctions, typically revolving around a parent; Lyle (Gordon-Levitt) has anger and denial issues - he won't take responsibility for his violent outbursts. As their taxed warden and counsellor, Cheadle initially threatens to unbalance the film with his star baggage, but he gives a superlatively controlled, back-heel performance. The younger actors, too, really live their parts - it's an undemonstrative, vividly authentic film.