The Good

A film about kids that recalls earlier films from the 1970s and 1980s.

The Bad

I wish there would have been a commentary track featuring the young stars of this film.

12 and Holding tells the story of Jacob, Malee, and Leonard, three friends who are struggling to come to grips with the lost of Jacob's twin brother Rudy (Conor Donovan plays both these roles). Jacob is obsessed with bringing revenge on the kids who killed his sibling, while Malee and Leonard deal with the loss in their own way. Malee befriends a patient who her mother is treating as a psychotherapist and Leonard tries to help his mother with her weight and health issues. All of this eventually takes some expected and unexpected turns, but the end result is a film that reminded me of such tales as River's Edge, Stand by Me and Over the Edge.

Director Michael Cuesta has made a frank film that is unafraid to deal with kids as human beings. It is his adult treatment of the material that makes 12 and Holding stand out in ways most films about adolescents don't.


Deleted Scene

There is an option to watch this scene with a commentary track from the director and I chose to take advantage of that. Titled "Malee Gives Back the Gun," Cuesta explains that he didn't cut many scenes from the film but he cut this one for two reasons. First, it sped up the pace the movie and second, the character's story gets resolved differently in the actual film. I guess having this scene in the movie would have obscured that to some degree.

Commentary Track

Director Michael Cuesta takes us through this commentary scene by scene. He discusses the moods and feelings he was trying to evoke, the idea of an endless summer suddenly coming to an end, and the subverting of American themes within this film. Cuesta is very candid as he mentions things like reading the reviews for the film, and he even goes so far as to say that he shouldn't do that anymore. All in all, if you liked this movie I would suggest listening to at least some of this.


Widescreen Version presented in a "Matted" widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of it's original theatrical exhibition. This movie was very colorful, almost as if it was trying to make up for some "color" all the characters lacked in their own lives. What I appreciated was that all the colors were really eyecatching. The greens and blues were definitely harsher in tone than we usually see in most films, all of which contributed to giving this movie a somber, foreboding feel.


English Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitled in English and Spanish. The sound for this film was solid. The soundtrack was light enough so that it didn't intrude on anything any of the characters were doing. In fact, it's almost creepy in it's silence but I think that that was the effect the director was going for. Nothing about this movie is so overt that it hits you across the face. We get all the information as it is necessary and there is also a healthy amount of ambiguity to go along with it as well.


The front cover features Jacob, Leonard and Malee with an image of body below them. The back cover offers up a burning treehouse (a fairly startling and poignant image), a well written description of this movie, a Special Features listing, and a cast list. This release from the Weinstein Company and IFC Films is pretty simply packaged, but I think the point is to get the direct message of this movie across. If nothing else, this packaging does just that.

Final Word

As I am a huge fan of movies about young people getting into trouble, I was very excited to screen 12 and Holding. I had seen Michael Cuesta's other film L.I.E., and I wasn't impressed at all. For some reason, it seems like because that movie dealt with a pedophile, the bad acting on the part of everyone but Brian Cox was easily forgiven. Cuesta seems a lot more in charge of the story he is telling here, and he seems much more capable of handling the multiple storylines and themes that run throughout this film. All in all, this movie just worked better for me.

As I watched 12 and Holding, I couldn't help but think I'd somehow stumbled across one of the best youth in crisis films in the 21st Century.

Twelve and Holding was released March 31, 2006.