24. Little Birds
Director: Elgin James
Stars: Juno Temple, Kay Panabaker, Leslie Mann, Neal McDonough, Kate Bosworth, Kyle Gallner, Chris Coy
Despite its title, Little Birds isn't a PG-13 Disney flick about young, small-town girls embarking on a magical adventure. In fact, it's almost entirely embedded in a harsh truth. The film tells first-time director Elgin James' life story, except through the eyes of a pair of lonely and lost teenage girls (Juno Temple and Kay Panabaker).
Together, the girls attempt to escape their deserted hometown of the Salton Sea, a barren, fetid whistle-stop in southern California, by following a group of delinquent and homeless skater boys toward the bright lights of sparkly Los Angeles. However, what they encounter isn't postcard-perfect. The girls find themselves involved in a series of petty crimes that culminates in a jarring penultimate scene that'll leave some of the most mature men squirming in their seats.
Given the conventional plot line, certain scenes become predictable. However, the strength of the film is that it doesn't glorify violence or sexuality, so its genuine portrayal of stark reality proves easy to connect to. Instead of leaving the theater feeling like you just saw another typical indie movie, you'll leave reminiscing on your own coming-of-age story.