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August 4, 2008 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Billy the Kid

Directed by Jennifer Venditti

The documentary Billy the Kid follows a not-so-token high school misfit from small-town Maine. It’s an interesting look into the mind of the protagonist: an autistic metalhead in the throes of adolescence. Surprisingly, this is enough to base an entire 87 minutes around, keeping you constantly engaged and hanging on to every word. Right from the opening credits, the tone of the movie is set by Billy himself: ‘I’m not black, not white, not foreign… Just different in the mind, that’s all.’

The director abandons the cliché of the socially inept high school outcast, which makes for an interesting watch. Because, as you soon find out, Billy is anything but cliché. He describes his thoughts candidly and (thankfully) without any unnecessary rhetoric. Though he expresses himself simply, what he says is often so profound that you’re left pondering the layers of meaning within each sentence. Throughout the film it’s easy to see how he sees the world, giving a different perspective on life.

The movie’s essentially a coming of age story, arthouse film style. You see him vying for the affections of a girl at the local cafe while coming to terms with the fact that he knows he’s different from everyone else. You see him trying to converse with kids at school, who are obviously only tolerating his presence for the camera’s sake. And because Billy doesn’t try to hide himself behind pretensions, you see him as he actually is: different, awkward and slightly naive.

All up, this movie was a breath of fresh air from mainstream Hollywood. What could easily have become a niche film for those interested in Kiss fans with autism (apparently they do exist), is instead an incredibly accessible glimpse of someone who’s usually shunned by society. On the whole, it was easy to watch and I was fully engaged right up to the closing credits (a rare occurrence these days). Certainly something fascinatingly different.


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