Sundance 2018: Never Goin’ Back

Maia Mitchell and Cami Morrone appear in Never Goin' Back by Augustine Frizzell, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Clay Grier.

Because of the Disney/Freeform background of star Maia Mitchell, Never Goin’ Back has that Spring Breakers vibe to it but these two films couldn’t be any more different.  Never Goin’ Back isn’t without drugs or vulgarity and there’s a lot of it throughout the film.

A first feature from writer-director Augustine Frizzell, it’s another film in which one can show their support of a female director.  Just as Sean Baker brought light to underrepresented low-income families with The Florida Project, Frizzell does something similar with her focus on two teenage girls in her feature debut.  These societal segments need to be represented more on screen so as to say, we see you and you’re valid even if life isn’t perfect.

Jessie (Cami Morrone) and Angela (Maia Mitchell) are two best friends living together and they’ve both dropped out of high school.  Two of them work at the same diner even though there’s a sense of knowing that they don’t want to be there and would rather be doing something else.  All they want to do is spend the week at the beach in Galveston, Texas, for Jessie’s 17th birthday but doing that is easier said than done.  They’ll have to put in a lot of hours at work just so their broke asses will be able to pay their rent.

Going to the beach won’t be so easy after their house gets robbed and they get sent off to juvenile detention for a few days.  They are stuck with the worst housemates in the world in Dustin (Joel Allen), Ryan (Matthew Holcumb), and Brandon (Kyle Mooney).

In signing on to play Angela, Mitchell shows a sense of maturing as an actress.  She’s no longer that young teen that people watched in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Teen Beach Movie.  In watching her performance, there’s a sense of knowing that she’s ready to take on those adult roles or at least the kind of roles that aren’t typical for the Disney and Freeform brand, much in the same way that a few Disney and Freeform stars took on roles in Spring Breakers.

The jokes in this film are typical of both high school teens and those in the early years of college no matter what side of the tracks one comes from and whether or not they dropped out.  The cinematography during the night scenes are well-shot, much thanks to cinematographer Greta Zozula.

In Never Goin’ Back, writer-director Augustine Frizzell shows that it’s possible to find the comedy in a relationship between two people even in the worst of their situations.

An official selection of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Never Goin’ Back premiered in the Midnight program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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