Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Max MacKenzie, Katerina Eichenberger, William Galatis, Jesse Walters, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Olivia Nossiff, Charlotte Cusmano Zanolli
Written by: Layla O'Shea
Directed by: Matt Walting
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 106
Date: 05/10/2019
IMDB

Just Say Goodbye (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Teen Dispirit

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it first appears like a low-budget after-school special, this teen suicide drama quickly shows that it is deeply heartfelt, caring more about its characters' feelings than delivering a message.

In Just Say Goodbye, six year-old Jesse Peterson finds his mother in bed, her bedside littered with many empty pill bottles. Ten years after this devastating day, Jesse (Max MacKenzie) has grown into a withdrawn, artistic teen, living with his angry, alcoholic father (William Galatis) and bullied by well-to-do Chase (Jesse Walters) at school. His only solace is his friendship with Sarah (Katerina Eichenberger).

She senses that something is wrong, lately, with him, and he confesses that he has planned to commit suicide. He finds great relief in admitting this, but Sarah becomes tormented, and desperately tries to prevent him from going through with it. Just when things look their blackest, Jesse gets a call that an art school in New York may be interested in giving him a scholarship, if he can assemble a portfolio. Is there hope for Jesse?

Certainly Just Say Goodbye has its awkward, predictable moments, especially in the beginning as it sets up themes of alcoholism, school bullying, and suicide with all the expected images and ideas. But it's not long before the genuine performances by MacKenzie and Eichenberger begin to resonate. They, and the movie, follow an organic flow of character.

In one scene, Sarah tries to seduce Jesse, to sleep with him if he'll promise not to go through with his suicide. The ploy quickly fails, yet the two teens are wise enough to explore their feelings around the episode. Rather than a major turning point in the plot, it comes across as nothing more than a hiccup in their friendship, a sublime character-building moment.

When Just Say Goodbye actually does employ traditional screenwriting-school plot turns is when it falters, but not enough to sink the movie. The ending may be surprising, and while it's truthful, it will be up to parents to decide whether it sends the right message to troubled teens.

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