I knew a boy named Thayer Mangeress. I had the good fortune of being close to him.

Teenage Dirtbag is a low budget indie film about a popular girl and an abused delinquent in high school. The boy becomes a little obsessed with the girl, and when they’re forced to sit together in Creative Writing classes and study hall due to their last names, the girl finds that he’s not quite the asshole she thought he was. But still, he makes it really, really difficult for her to like him, and theirs isn’t exactly a match made in heaven.

This movie is unlike almost every other ‘teen’ movie I’ve seen (I put teen in quotes because I think it’s more an adult movie than a teen one, even though it’s mostly set in a high school). There’s no big screen gloss to the filming and the actors aren’t all unbelievably stunning regardless of their social status. The realness feels fresh, and I want to see more of it in teen film.

The character of Thayer truly intrigued me, and I got sucked deeper and deeper into compassion and heartache with him as I watched the movie. He was uniquely insane and fascinating, and I completely get how Amber responded to him. There were no unrealistic ‘love will save all’ type messages or quick fixes to Thayer’s deep-set problems.

I adored the story. What it says about social status and adolescence, love, and the effects of abuse. How there are no easy fixes for abuse, how it will truly Fuck You Up and you can’t necessarily escape it and get what you want before the credits roll. How love isn’t pure, it’s messy and hard and sometimes doesn’t or can’t work.

That said, Teenage Dirtbag isn’t perfect. Certain performances seemed a little jilted and off at times, but overall the acting was powerful. Coupled with the story and direction, I was entranced. It’s stayed with me since I watched it.