The structure of the film centers around a real-time investigation with flashbacks driving the story, much like the first season of “True Detective.”

Before Charlie Heaton shot to stardom playing the gawky teen Jonathan Byers in the television phenomenon “Stranger Things,” he was a fresh-faced actor starring in the indie film “As You Are,” alongside television veteran Owen Campbell (“The Americans,” “Boardwalk Empire”) and teenage icon Amandla Stenberg (“The Hunger Games”). Hesitant to be labeled just another “coming of age” film, director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte creates an edgier, darker look at growing up and navigating through the confusing nuances of life, which don’t always result in a happy ending.

Set in the 1990’s in upstate New York, “As You Are” rests solely on the relationships and personal development among three high school kids, Mark (Heaton), Jack (Campbell), and Sarah (Stenberg), as recounted during a police investigation (which comes full circle at the film’s end). Mark and Jack are introduced to each other through their parents when Mark’s mom begins dating Jack’s dad, and the two hit it off immediately. Both are “skaters” with an interest in smoking pot, and not the best influence on each other as far as schooling is concerned, but for these two social misfits, the friendship between them is their priority. Skipping class one morning, they meet Sarah, and very quickly establish a friendship with her.
The three friends get along as one big happy family, never thinking that this wouldn’t last forever, but it’s not much later when each relationship changes dramatically.  Mark’s mom breaks up with Jack’s dad, which inadvertently tears the two boys apart. Their shared hero, Kurt Cobain, commits suicide, leaving Mark distraught. Jack begins hanging out with the wrong crowd, pushing Mark away. It’s then when Mark beings to realize his feelings towards Jack are stronger than that of just a “friend.” With Sarah by his side, in that moment at least, Mark struggles to make sense of his world and what to do next.

Not only was “As You Are” accepted into the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, it was also awarded the U.S. Dramatic Jury prize.

As mentioned earlier, the structure of the film centers around a real-time investigation with flashbacks driving the story, much like the first season of “True Detective.” The structure works for the type of story that Joris-Peyrafittinto set out to make– the police investigation exposes what each character both contributed, and took away from, their mutual relationships. The speed at which everything progresses, however, is questionable but understandable for the timing of the story. Relationships are rushed, and we as an audience are forced to trust these characters very quickly. Suspension of disbelief should be embraced here.
Writer and director Miles Joris-Peyrafittinto has so much to be proud of with his debut feature-length film. Not only was “As You Are” accepted into the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, it was also awarded the U.S. Dramatic Jury prize. Plus, given the fact that Joris-Peyrafittinto is only twenty-five (yes, you read that right), he has plenty of time to develop his skills and unique vision.

“As You Are” is not rated. 110 minutes. Playing at the Village East Cinema, NYC on 2/24/17 with additional cities to follow.