Hormonal teen-movie hi-jinks aside, real adolescent life is mostly waiting. This atmospheric slice of life from the USC film school is a well-crafted reminder of that fact.
Directed by Damien Caldwell and with an appropriately profanity-heavy script by Aaron Brown drawn from Caldwell’s own experience, “Lincoln and 31st” presents us with two bored youths stumbling through oppressively generic suburban environs, committing acts of mild vandalism as they go. Winding up at a gas station, Jason (David Michæl White) describes being beaten by his father, but acts the part of the macho tough guy to his less thuggish pal, Tavian (James Martinec). After extorting some free Pop-Rocks and generally harassing an annoyed gas station attendant (Ewan Chung), things turn ugly when a real thug appears and a potentially deadly dominance ritual acts itself out.
“Lincoln and 31st” is not so much a film about events, but about a feeling, and it takes the time it needs to establish the proper, quiet tone to match its surprisingly ironic and thoughtful conclusion. This is superior student filmmaking – and not bad by professional standards either. Making the most of their 16-mm film stock, cinematographers Takashi Kawashima and Heidi Zadok are due special kudos for creating just the right note of loneliness and isolation.
If uneven acting ultimately prevents “Lincoln and 31st” from reaching its full potential, it’s nevertheless an evocative, specific look at a small, but crucial, moment.