AFF mini-review: ‘Always Learning’
Tobiah is a home-school kid who has just been accepted to Brighton University but is being held back by his smothering mother in “Always Learning.” When Tobiah meets the latest addition to his home-school group, bad boy Joey (Sam Martin), he finally has an outlet to the real world.
“Always Learning” was produced by San Jose State University students. Director Robert Krakower and 59 of his peers were given the opportunity to create a full-length film at the university’s Spartan Film Studios beginning in 2011.
Krakower drew inspiration for his film from his personal home-schooling experience. Throughout the film there’s jabbing at the home-schooling lifestyle, with characters such as Baby Davie, a grade school-aged kid who runs around with a pacifier in his mouth ready to embrace any and every adult. But even with this teasing, Krakower doesn’t exaggerate the experience for easy laughs.
Executive producer Barnaby Dallas, who’s a San Jose State instructor, says the crew worked together to create a “Napoleon Dyamite” tone for the film. If that was the intention, it wasn’t the outcome. There are, instead, numerous moments that make Noah Baumbach films come to mind – and it’s clear Krakower is a fan. Besides Tobiah looking like every character in “Kicking and Screaming,” one bedroom scene, in particular, takes you straight to 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale.”
Like Baumbach, Krakower succeeds in developing characters we’re interested in knowing, like Joey and Samantha’s alcoholic, deadbeat guardian, Borham (Randall King), who takes in the children his ex-girlfriends don’t want anymore.
One other highlight is the unveiling of Sam Martin. This kid is too cute. I’m calling it right now: Martin is getting noticed soon.
“Always Learning” screened Saturday at the Austin Film Festival, and will have another screening at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Hideout Theatre.