Sidney Hall harbors a precocious talent for writing. His classroom essays exhibit a danger that some find off-putting, though one teacher recognizes his talent and urges Sidney to pursue a writing career. Early success with his first novel makes Sidney a celebrity, though his dystopian observations about suburbia provoke tragic outcomes among some young readers, cloaking his name in scandal. Heightened scrutiny and expectations haunt him, as do dark secrets from his past that complicate his creativity, and interfere with his chances of finding love with a childhood sweetheart. When the disillusioned writer has all but disappeared from public life, a mysterious detective seeks the answer to his mystery.
Shawn Christensen's impressive second feature offers a far-reaching examination of the societal pressures and failings that can send a life of promise into free fall. Told in elliptical flashbacks and flash-forwards showing Sidney at different stages of life (and of emotional disintegration), this somber and beautifully photographed film demonstrates an energetic thematic reach, matched by Logan Lerman's captivating performance in the title role.