Sex. God. Love. Death. These are difficult, sticky topics for adults, so imagine trying to come to terms with them if you’re an incessantly horny 17-year-old girl from a strict Evangelical family, caught in a love triangle while your free-spirited aunt, the only person who seems to understand you, slowly succumbs to cancer. If you’re up for a frank exploration of such emotionally charged material, you don’t have to imagine it; Marialy Rivas has done the work for you in Young & Wild.
The movie stars Alicia Rodriguez as Daniela, a probable nymphomaniac who, just a few weeks shy of taking college entrance exams, gets kicked out of her religious school for having sex. Her mother, already in a constant state of irritation with her, threatens to send her on a boat around the world to do missionary work, but Daniela’s sympathetic aunt -- weak from chemotherapy -- talks the mom out of this drastic step. Instead, Daniela goes to work for a local Evangelical TV station, where she eventually begins simultaneous affairs with co-workers Tomas (Felipe Pinto) and Antonia (Maria Gracia Omegna).
Daniela expresses her nonstop sexual desires in a blog that gives the film its name, and Rivas, making her feature-length directorial debut, artfully includes shots of Daniela’s readers commenting. This is one of the first films that captures both the sense of community and the utter pointlessness of so much online chatter. Because her family’s devout religious beliefs keep her from maintaining any degree of closeness with them, it makes sense that this troubled girl would pour her heart out in a blog, and that strangers would eat up her every scintillating word.
This Chilean film deals graphically and honestly with teens having sex, and American audiences unused to being confronted with such explicit material may not be able to shake their discomfort enough to appreciate Rivas’ accomplishments here. There are few explorations of a female character as complex as Daniela, and Young & Wild never blinks while looking deep inside the soul of a character who seems compelled to take pleasure wherever she can find it, in part because she’s just beginning to understand how hard life is.
The movie ends with Daniela mulling over 1 Corinthians 13:11, the famous Bible verse about becoming an adult and putting away childish things, and Daniela coming to a conclusion that is disheartening but, as we’ve seen, entirely true for her. There aren’t too many 17-year-olds who have any understanding of what they want or need, and Young & Wild turns out to be about that complicated time in anyone’s life. It’s a portrait of a lost soul, who burns with enough passion that we believe she just might find herself, even if right now that seems like an impossibility to her. leave a comment --Perry Seibert