Review: Mid90s (TIFF 2018)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021


PLOT: A thirteen year old boy growing up with an abusive older brother and a somewhat absent mother finds himself drawn to a group of older skateboarders.

REVIEW: As far as directorial debuts from A-list actors go, MID90s is an unusual one. Deliberately small scale, in some ways this eighty minute slice of life feels more like the film equivalent of a novella, but it’s an intriguing first feature from Jonah Hill, who clearly has a unique voice as a director and a lot of empathy for his subjects.


THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER’s Sunny Suljic plays a thirteen year old without much in the way of friends or guidance. His mother (Katherine Waterston) is sweet but inattentive, while his older brother (Lucas Hedges – in psycho mode) is a full-on monster, regularly dishing out vicious beatings for every perceived slight. Even a nice gesture from Suljic’s Stevie, where he saves money to buy him a cd for his eighteenth birthday is ignored.



He finds a surrogate family in a local skate crew, fronted by the cool as ice Ray (Na-kel Smith), the guy every neighbourhood kid wants to be, and his best friend, the aptly named Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt ) who just wants to have a good time. They’re followed around by the dopey Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) who constantly shoots them on his camcorder, while another kid, Reuben (Gio Galicia ) finds his place in the crew usurped when Ray takes a liking to Stevie.

Granted, the skate crew aren’t going to be everyone’s idea of a positive influence, with them giving him beer, weed, and hooking him up with (older) girls, but Hill goes to great lengths to show that the guys, particularly Smith’s Ray, legitimately like Stevie. You can see why he idolizes them, as they’re the polar opposite to his rage-fuelled brother.

Hill shoots the whole thing on 16 mm, framed in a tight 1:33:1 window boxed aspect ratio that makes it look a lot like the underground skate videos that went around in the time period this is set in, circa 1995-1996. The period detail is effective without being too much. Having been the same age as Stevie in this era, I can say that it feels authentically low key, with it not being bogged down too much by nostalgia, despite the killer nineties soundtrack.

The guys playing the skate crew, who are real skaters, are terrific, especially Na-kel Smith, who shows some real potential. Suljic is also always believable as the awkward and increasingly angry Stevie, with Lucas Hedges subverts his nice guy image as the near irredeemable brother, although he’s given a few humanizing moments.

Again, this is a low-key kind of movie that I doubt was made in order to catapult Hill into another career, but it’s a solid effort, and with good handling A24 might have a sleeper on their hands. Hill’s done a good job starting out with the small-scale charmer, and he’s on an interesting path as a filmmaker if he chooses to go down that route.





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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.