Ten Thousand Saints | Asa Butterfield's troubled teenager comes of age in late-1980s New York

Ten Thousand Saints (2015) Asa Butterfield
(Image credit: © Universal Studios)

Asa Butterfield's aimless teenager finds a sense of direction when he lands up in New York in this touching coming-of-age movie

Ten Thousand Saints (2015) Asa Butterfield

Rage. Riot. Rebirth. 

‘The road to hell is paved with fun.’ So says Ethan Hawke’s feckless, dope-growing Les, welcoming his estranged teenage son Jude to late-1980s New York in touching coming-of-age movie Ten Thousand Saints.

Les lives in the East Village’s grungy, graffiti-covered Alphabet City, a neighbourhood of punks, squatters and the homeless. Jude, played by fresh-faced young English actor Asa Butterfield (familiar from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (opens in new tab), Hugo (opens in new tab) and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (opens in new tab)), has just come from snowy Vermont. Yet it is one of the film’s ironies that the troubled Jude only begins to straighten himself out after he arrives in the hazardous city.

Bored and disaffected back in Vermont, Jude and his best friend Teddy (Avan Jogia) had got their kicks sniffing solvents. Given total freedom in New York, after tragic events propel him there, Jude looks up Teddy’s older half-brother, Johnny (Emile Hirsch), a hardcore punk singer who follows a ‘straight-edge’ lifestyle, shunning sex and drugs. And he also seeks out Eliza (played by Hailee Steinfeld, Butterfield’s co-star from Ender’s Game (opens in new tab)), the restless daughter of Les’s posh, well-heeled English girlfriend Diane (Emily Mortimer), and the girl with whom he and Teddy had spent a freewheeling New Year’s Eve in Vermont the year before.

The relationships that ensue from these encounters are messy and awkward. And so, to a certain extent, is the film, adapted by writer-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini from Eleanor Henderson’s 2011 novel. But there’s a sweetness underlying the film’s mix of comedy and drama that gets under your skin, if you give it a chance. And the performances are terrific.

Certificate 15. Runtime 103 mins. Directors Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Ten Thousand Saints debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on 14 August. Available on DVD from Universal Pictures.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUKTwQvDYgo

Jason Best

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.