It’s very rare when a movie completely tears your heart out and shines a light on how cruel humans can be. Jacob Aaron Estes’ Mean Creek is one of those scarce experiences. From the moment we meet George Tooney (Josh Peck), a troubled, overweight adolescent we’re thrown into this very scary, albeit very real world.
George bullies Sam Merrick (Rory Culkin) and after one particular incident, Sam turns to his older brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan) for help. Rocky and his friends Marty (Scott Mechlowicz) and Clyde (Ryan Kelley) who then devise cruel vengeance on George.
The film’s cinematography is absolutely wonderful and as it seems Jacob and director of photography Sharone Meir meticulously planned every detail and stayed truthful to the source screenplay, writer, director Jacob’s wonder-child. It’s his directorial debut, but he plays it like a pro. The writing pitch-perfect, witty dialogue and beautiful banter, it doesn’t stray from it’s main goal: to petrify.
It feels very short and even though it runs at a mere 90-minutes, it feels like a short film. It breezes past and leaves you yearning for more. Every big Hollywood blockbuster lately seem to be lackluster, but with a terrifyingly low $500,000 production budget, Mean Creek’s production value shows. Sure it’s not explosive and it doesn’t warrant a $100,000,000 budget, but it’s very well made for the paltry amount of money they had and with critical acclaim, it’s nothing to sneeze at.
Young Carly Schroeder is brilliant and throughout the entire film completely embodies someone struggling to find answers, someone entirely lost and it shows she was perfect for the part. It’s a beautiful portrait of emotion as Josh Peck sways your opinion from feeling bad for him, to wanting to hurt him yourself and you feel sorry for his mother, because the entire audience knows the feeling of losing someone close to you, someone you love. Not knowing whether or not that person is safe, or even alive at that given moment.
In fact, Mean Creek is what other films should strive to be. It invokes a sort of fear in you, a different kind you’ve never experienced. It centers around rare thematic elements like revenge and forgiveness, but begs the question, what would you do in this strenuously difficult situation?
It’s incredible how Jacob Aaron Estes was able to amass such magnificent elements into a movie like this, but like the film’s tagline says, beneath the surface, everyone has a secret.