Coming-of-age/teen movies come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the major stumbling blocks filmmakers often run up against is authenticity. It doesn’t help that so many productions fill their cast with twenty-somethings playing characters often ten years their junior. Hollywood, in particular, often falls foul of this trap and prioritises style over substance. However, films like Eighth Grade demonstrate that it can be done well with the right combination of director, lead actor and writer. Sophie Jones possesses this perfect formula.
Following the sudden death of her mother, Sophie (Jessica Barr) is still in shock and struggling to come to terms with her grief whilst at the same time dealing with the myriad challenges faced by every sixteen-year-old. She has a good relationship with her father (Dave Roberts) and sister (Charlotte Jackson), but it’s not a subject they discuss together. In order to try and feel something again, she embarks on a dangerous course.
The key to the success of Sophie Jones is the relatability of Sophie’s character. Co-written and produced by director Jessie Barr with her cousin and lead, both of whom lost their mother at the age of sixteen, it just feels right. There’s a vibrancy and uncertainty within this tale. One which is both exciting and raw. It’s awkward at times and uncomfortable in its own skin, which helps make Sophie Jones such unusually thoughtful, hopeful and empathetic filmmaking.
Sophie Jones opens in select US theatres, digital platforms and VoD on 2 March.