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The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Shy teen blossoms with a little help from his friends

(Image credit: John Bramley)

Fans of popular novels often gripe when beloved books get turned into films, but lovers of 1999 bestseller The Perks of Being a Wallflower (opens in new tab) should have no complaint with this heartfelt screen adaptation (opens in new tab) - writer-director Stephen Chbosky just happens to be the book’s author.

For those coming to the story for the first time, Perks belongs to that crowded genre the high-school coming-of-age tale and revolves around painfully shy student Charlie (Logan Lerman) as he grapples with his first-year of high school in 1991 Pittsburgh.

Still fragile following a period of mental turmoil after the suicide of his best friend, Charlie shrinks back from school life until he gets befriended by a pair of nonconformist seniors, stepsiblings Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), and unexpectedly begins to bloom.


(Image credit: John Bramley)

This is a familiar enough story but it’s made fresh here by charismatic performances from the film’s young leads. Lerman, the puppyish D’Artagnan in last year’s The Three Musketeers (opens in new tab), convincingly negotiates his character’s highs and lows; Miller, so good as the murderous teenager in We Need to Talk About Kevin (opens in new tab), is entrancing as the flamboyantly eccentric Patrick; and Watson makes Sam a worthy crush-object for Charlie and also pulls off a credible American accent, though she hasn’t quite shaken off the innocence of her Hogwarts years (opens in new tab) and her character’s past as a sexy wild child isn’t entirely persuasive.

Charlie’s past also jars slightly. Adolescence is surely a troubling enough rite of passage in itself without all the childhood trauma (dead friend, dead aunt and repressed secrets) Chbosky piles onto his unfortunately protagonist.

Where Chbosky does score, though, is in conveying the joyful release teenagers feel on finding themselves and finding their soul-mate peers - something his characters do with the aid of the emotional touchstones provided by British post-punk classics such as Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ (opens in new tab), The Smiths' ‘Asleep’ (opens in new tab) and The Cocteau Twins’ ‘Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops’ (opens in new tab). Charlie, Sam and Patrick are a captivating trio; their good taste in music only makes them even more winning.

In cinemas from Wednesday 3rd October.

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.