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Coming-of-age flick explores the dark side of childhood

Kam Williams

Inspired by a couple of short stories by James Franco, “Yosemite” is an eerie bildungsroman exploring some decidedly dark and dangerous sides of childhood. The drama features a trio of discrete tales which ultimately merge in fairly effective fashion.

The action unfolds in Palo Alto in 1985, which is where we find a trio of 5th graders facing different emotional issues. Ten-year-old Chris (Everett Meckler) and his younger brother, Alex (Troy Tinnirello) are driving to Yosemite National Park with their father (Franco) who’s recently separated from their mom.

Their plans for quality time are affected, en route, by their dad’s admission that he’s a recovering alcoholic. Upon their arrival, the vacation is all but ruined when the three get lost hiking, followed by Chris’ finding the charred remains of what looks like a human skeleton.

Comic books and cats

The second chapter of this coming-of-age adventure revolves around the predicament of Joe (Alec Mansky), a product of divorce in dire need of a father figure. Unfortunately, to fill a void, he naively settles on Henry (Henry Hopper), a creepy-looking loner sharing a love of comic books. Against the boy’s better judgment, he even accepts an invitation back to the possible pedophile’s humble abode.

The last segment is about Ted (Calum John), a kid whose beloved cat, Charlie, has gone missing. Trouble is, there’s been a sighting of a mountain lion roaming around town. And since his father (Steven Wiig) ostensibly is too consumed with Silicon’s Valley burgeoning Computer Revolution to care about the predator, Ted enlists the assistance of pals Chris and Joe to embark on a big game hunt in the hills just beyond suburbia.

“Yosemite” was both directed and adapted to the screen by Gabrielle Demeestere (“The Color of Time”) who employed an admirably understated approach to Franco’s source material. This critic might have more appreciated this earnest examination of the loss of innocence if the subject-matter hadn’t be so relentlessly dark and disturbing.