Synopsis by Robert Firsching
Pratt Art Institute MFA candidate Josh Koury originally directed this haunting documentary about rebellious teens in an upstate New York town as a 20-minute thesis project. Dealing with class struggle, aimlessness, and intensely self-destructive substance abuse, the film documents a year in the life of the director's brother, Adam Koury, and Adam's friend Josh Siegfried, two working-class boys who loathe the college-bound rich kids of their small town and their own meandering existences with varying degrees of intensity. The story began to change after Siegfried's arrest and subsequent jail term, so the film was expanded to 57 minutes for festivals, and again to 65 minutes for its theatrical debut. When Siegfried returns from jail, he is a far different person than the hilariously profane rebel presented in the first part of the film. Sporting a pink mohawk and punk clothing, the newly sullen teen has turned all of his rage and resentment inward, associating with a rough crowd and ratcheting up his consumption of painkillers and alcohol until he is either barely conscious or spewing vomit in parking lots. Adam changes too, pulling away from Siegfried and starting the painful process of growing up. The third change that is presented in this remarkable film occurs to the director himself. Starting as a dispassionate observer, Josh Koury is slowly brought into the story as he begins to understand his responsibility (notably following a stern dressing-down by his mother) as both an older brother and a role model. But if the transformations affecting the Koury brothers give Standing By Yourself its heart, the story of Josh Siegfried gives it its dark, disturbing soul. The film's final images of him -- strangely reminiscent of the final shots of River Phoenix in the similarly titled Stand By Me before the audience is told of his character's prison term and eventual death in a bar fight -- are what lifts this film from another Kids-type look at aimless youth into a powerful and painfully unforgettable experience.
adolescence, disillusionment, identity, observations, teenagers