I’ve been wanting to se Mean Creek since it first came out twelve years ago which makes me feel very old. If I saw it back then, I would have been around the same age as most of the main characters. Now I’m older than all of them. Now while Mean Creekis not exactly a film that rewards such a long wait, it is a captivating little thing.
All of the young actors are good and there’s enough complexity to the characters that they aren’t just kids but more like young adults. They’re waiting for their place in the world and the angst is often overwhelming for them. The relationships feel very authentic, as does the group dynamic. Rory Culkin might be my favourite of the Culkins and I suspect this is the pinnacle of his younger performances. Josh Peck too is used very well. In fact, part of this film’s appeal to me back in the day was the idea of seeing Josh from Drake & Josh be a horrible bully getting his comeuppance. It doesn’t disappoint in that regard, even if his character is a lot more complicated than you may expect.
Maybe it’s the spectre of Stand By Me in my head but the film does have a bit of Stephen King vibe. Also Terrence Malick and Harmony Korine. It’s a film that exists in its own small-town bubble. I like the period markers (obviously they weren’t period back then) like the heavy presence of a Mini DV camera and the first signs of the digital age coming to light. It’s inherent a film set during and about 2003/2004. Jacob Aaron Estes is clearly a very cine-literate director obsessed with character and detail rather than plot so I am surprised to find he hasn’t made anything of note since. It’s a strong debut, if a bit slight overall. The second half is far less interesting than the first but it remains enticing. Not sure if I’ll ever feel the need to return to Mean Creek but this trip has definitely been a long time coming.