I’m sure there’s a little child in all of us, one who yearns for the comfort of parental subservience, the absence of responsibility or the simple gratification of sucking your thumb. If you’re reading this and nodding your head, then maybe it’s time for you to meet Justin Cobb.
Justin (Lou Pucci) is an exiled teenager. He doesn’t have or feel that he has a place in the world. Justin is a thumbsucker. All of his problems and worries seem to be solved through the simple pleasure of putting his thumb in his mouth. Through worrying and a feeling of separation (and maybe even guilt), Justin’s parents put their son on Ritalin after he was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder. In the wake of his drug use, Justin finds confidence in himself. We watch as he climbs the ladder to the top of his speech and debate team, for which he felt out of place before.
It doesn’t take long for things to spiral out of control when Justin learns that Ritalin is “just another form of speed.” Soon after he gives up the Ritalin, he turns to pot. Whether or not the pot is an escape for him or a pathway to the girl on his speech and debate team is overlooked and never answered. In fact, we don’t really get too many questions in general. The movie presents a lot of concerns with the idea of a medicated society but it never takes it beyond the setup.
Is the film criticizing Ritalin, marijuana or drugs in general? I don’t know. I’m not even sure the filmmaker knows, which allows for a pretty pointless experience.
Writer-director Mike Mills’ world is a world where everyone is screwed up. We all have problems and worries. So the question that arises is, why don’t we just drown ourselves in drugs to help our attention, appease depression or to simply fit-in? Since the movie failed to present an answer to its own question, I’ll shed some light on it myself. Maybe it’s because we should be able to overcome these obstacles ourselves. Relying on drugs to solve our problems is as childish as sucking your thumb. That sounds like a neat theme for a movie.
Danny Gordon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.