Before teenagers were invented, you were a child and then an adult. This cool, dreamy doc, based on a book by Jon Savage, pieces together a scrapbook of dazzling footage from the late-1800s to 1945. In his lovely, urchin-y voice Ben Whishaw reads from British teenagers’ diaries, beginning with a boy who became a man overnight aged 12 when sent to work in a steel factory. World War I changed everything. In Germany, boys of 13 and 14 lied about their age to enlist in the army. ‘The old had sent us to die and we hated them,’ reads a German actor as we watch footage of boys with shell shock twitching compulsively.
The generation gap was born out of disillusionment. Swing kids, early-twentieth-century hooligans, Hitler Youth, Bobby Soxers, this is a whistle stop tour that leaves you wanting more. I could have watched an entire doc about the Bright Young Things who scandalised 1920s London with their boozy hijinks. Or Munich’s rebellious swing kids, sent to political prisons by the Nazis for dancing to Duke Ellington. Throughout the documentary are gorgeous images of teens with goofy, full-of-hope smiles that make your heart ache.