(Originally published in LA Weekly)
You’ve probably seen most of the elements that make upThe Lesser Blessed before: the icy, desolate rural town, teens who get high and have sex because there’s nothing else to do, two friends who want the same girl, a family that can’t communicate. But The Lesser Blessedcan be forgiven for treading on the heels of other, more original movies that also deal with the anxiety of high school and small-town life, especially as it has First Nations teen Larry Sole (played by newcomer Joel Evans) as its protagonist and narrator. An outsider at school, constantly harassed by another boy who holds a grudge against him, Larry makes friends with new kid Johnny, a rebel who quickly descends on Larry’s crush, Juliet. What Johnny and Juliet don’t know, however, is the truth behind the accident that left Larry with gruesome burn scars–an incident Larry still hasn’t come to terms with. The film’s drug use, fist-fighting, and concerned parents are nothing new, but Larry as a character is wholly unique: a quiet observer who comes out of his shell to reveal both adolescent bravado and a deep sense of First Nations spirituality. Though he engages in reckless behavior, Larry never seems out of control, and his journey toward acceptance, both for himself and from his family and friends, feels significant and true. Without him, The Lesser Blessed may have been another mildly affecting, mostly unnecessary addition to the coming-of-age canon, but Larry–and Evans–makes this a story worth telling.