The small indie film “The Never List” is part of the revolution in the movie world to tell more female-driven narratives. This coming-of-age story features strong young women characters that will speak to teens worldwide.
Good girl Eva (Fivel Stewart) never gets in trouble at school. She studies hard, earns good grades, and is helping plan the upcoming Junior dance — all while running for class president. She and Liz (Brenna D’Amico) have been best friends since elementary school, play acting as their alter-egos Vicky and Veronica and writing what they call a “never list” of things they have dared themselves to do. When Liz dies in a tragic accident, Eva struggles in dealing with the sudden loss of her friend and begins acting out. She decides the best way to honor her BFF’s memory is to complete every crazy task on their list, not taking into consideration the lives it could ruin along the way.
The unconventional script (by Ariadne Shaffer) takes a basic idea and gives it a unique spin. Stewart is effective as Eva, a teenager who is trying to grasp the difficulty of experiencing loss for the first time. She becomes disconnected from her true self, but makes every effort to find her way back. She’s lost, but not for good. Eva learns some serious life lessons about doing the right thing, eventually growing up and changing her own life for the better.
The movie has a “Booksmart” vibe, with a good girl who explores her wild side, and reminds me of a Disney Channel movie with a bit more edge and a dash of raunch. Eva is a good match for her friend Taylor (Anna Grace Barlow), who hangs around after Liz is gone, and she starts a relationship with Joey (Andrew Kai), the rebel hunk next door who apparently hates shirts with sleeves. The actors display varying degrees of competency in their craft, but they are all appealing and make their characters easy to root for.
Director Michelle Mower adds cute bursts of animation to tell the story, adding a welcome levity to the more serious situations and a much-needed break in the film’s very slow start. The second half of the movie is vastly better than the first, and it picks up steam after a school bake sale goes hilariously wrong. It’s just funny enough to deliver on the laughs.
“The Never List” is not a perfect movie, but it’s a really solid effort. The charming actors and relatable story will appeal to teens, and the sentiment to always be yourself is a lesson we’re never too old (or young) to learn all over again.
By: Louisa Moore