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Review: Young Birds Fly (2007)

Youngbirdsfly I have been privileged enough to be one of the first in the UK to view a new independent film based on Mod Culture and have been asked to write a review of the film by the film’s American director Leonardo Flores. Young Birds Fly is the first feature length film from Mod enthusiast and California State University graduate Flores and is the story of young quiet American girl, Jill, who blossoms into the Los Angeles Mod scene. 

The film tells a detailed tale of Jill’s transition as she discovers the joy and amazement of the Mod scene…the music, the dance moves, the scooters and the fashion. And it really does give you a sense of Jill’s wonderment as she grasps Mod with both of her hands until it is part of the air she breathes.

It takes a brave man to follow in the footsteps of a cult classic such as Quadrophenia. Indeed, Mods and those with an interest in the scene are quick to grab hold of any film made in connection with it, with movies so few and far between. But this isn't just a depiction of contemporary mod in LA, Leonardo has endeavoured to tell a tale that also criticises much of the scene’s lifestyle, showing young Jill’s disappointment and frustration as she discovers the shallow side of Mod.

The film touches on the alienation and contempt that can be found in Mod circles, skimming the surface of the need to be the best, the need to have to the look and the moves and the right friends, as well as drug abuse within the scene, all of which actually give the film an honesty, enabling the viewer to identify with Jill and many of the other characters in the story in relation to the more shallow side of Mod.

In fact, Flores has tried hard not to glorify the Mod scene. In this uncut version of the film Flores has emphasised the need to show the negative aspects of the social scene and yet still attempts to represent the positive feelings and emotions Mod Culture can influence. Using his own experiences he has carefully touched on areas of Mod Culture that aren’t often addressed.

Over the course of a few months Jill’s journey includes family grief, self-inhibitions and social exclusions… yet, it is the very essence, the soul and energy of Modernism that empowers her and gives her the opportunity to blossom into the Venus Ace.  Flores shows us that we can take the elements of Mod that give us soul and clarity, yet it is the better person who can use these elements to enrich their lives culturally… not just to become popular or top dog.

For me the film was very enjoyable, if a little lengthy.  Flores indulges us with every last detail of Jill’s wonderment, however it is this indulgence that can leave the viewer feeling as though they are constantly waiting for something to happen.  The punches don’t come quick enough and as a viewer I feel that you are left feeling the need to see some parts of the movie in fast forward in order to feel the explosion that Mod can do to our senses.  Each event that sees Jill exhilarated for the first time (such as her discovery of soul music) is built up and revealed so slowly that in scenes where the hairs should be standing up on the back of your neck they barely flutter.

I have to bear in mind that this is Flores’s first film, which he has virtually crated as a one-man show.  Considering this, the film is a monumental achievement for him and I am sure that Mod enthusiasts across the USA the UK will be grappling over themselves to get a copy of this film.  It will certainly evolve to be a cult classic in time I am sure.

Moving on to the technicalities of the film…  Firstly, the film score is a little loud in a few places, leaving us to struggle to hear what the actors are saying in some scenes, however the score has an apt Italian easy listening vibe about it which the volume mix-ups can be forgiven for.

The music is often great… but it is here where Flores could have dragged the viewer in more intensely with a few chosen moments to blast out that classic tune and fill your senses with energy of a particular scene.  Instead those moments are chosen loosely and the again the sound levels not quite tweaked enough to delight the audience.

Another difficulty for me is seeing British Modernism influences Americanised. Visually the film contains some amazing shots… the scooters, the record store, some full on soul dancing and some to die for outfits worn by Jill.  However, there’s something fundamentally missing in the look of the other characters, the extras and accessories they bear.  But isn’t that the same with all Mod films made up to now, I mean… look at the dreadful hair do of Quadrophenia’s Steph and the dodgy Mod dancing of Sting.  The enthusiasts long for an accurate portrayal of a life incorporating Mod - where the true intense passion of Modernist Culture and what it is like to be part of it is revealed.  Here, in Young Birds Fly, I personally find that this has not been fully achieved, but Flores has had a pretty damn good try which I thank him for and praise his efforts.  Can this difficult accurate portrayal ever be achieved from an independent film-maker?  Probably not, but it would be nice to see one day.

By no means am I intending to run the film down.  Politically Leonardo Flores has achieved a difficult task at showing us the highs and lows of a culture known for its snobbery and competitiveness.  He has had the difficult task in producing a continuity of Mod looks and tunes amongst the scenes that the Brits are quick to criticise.  Modernism and it’s ever evolving culture has inspired and stolen the hearts and souls of generations of youth over the globe throughout the 60s, 70s 80s, 90s… right up to today where we are still seeing essence of Mod in alternative youth culture.  From my generation of Modernists point of view, all this film truly needs is a good edit and some fine tuning in order to offer the viewer the full rush that the true meaning of Mod is all about.

From me the film has a big ‘thumbs up’ and considering that this is Flores’s first independent feature length film which he has financed, researched directed and edited alone, I am sure we will have bigger and better things yet to come from him.

Maxine Hayward

More about the movie from the Young Birds Fly MySpace page


Anthony R.

Hey, this movie trailer uses the song my dad wrote and sang back in the 1960's. Why no credit?


Anthony R.

Ooops, sorry. The song, used for the trailer, was written and sung by Art Robles of The Majestics back in the mid 1960's. Giving credit where it's due!

Derek B

Hi can anyone tell me if this can be bought on DVD. Has it been shown in the UK even ?

thanks D

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