Mean Creek (2004)
Mean Creek is the young filmmaker Jacob Aaron Estes' first feature. The film was among the selected films at both Cannes and Sundance and did well at the Independent Spirits Awards as well. Why is not too difficult to see, because the issues handled here are both universal and highly relevant. What is even more prominent, however, is the natural beauty of this film – both in terms of the wonderful Oregon locations and the attention Estes gives to them, but also when it comes to the interaction and the authenticity between the kids. For half its running time, Mean Creek is extremely engaging and challenging. There's an effective, smouldering tension building and Estes' dialogue is remarkably in tune.
Unfortunately, Estes isn't as subtle when it comes to the plotting. There's a very crucial scene in a boat, in which the Mechlowicz and Peck characters are aggravating each other, that simply lets the movie down. The following sequences are unimpressive, with Estes surrendering his characters to overplotting. The conclusion isn't all bad, but the film cannot keep up its delightful spontaneity all through.