How often has a mainstream film tackled the real-life anxieties of the kind of questioning teens who turn to Tumblr and Reddit to learn the facts of life? Mostly because it's complicated and uncharted territory, a lot of adults just don't get it. The flourishing variety of gender and sexual-preference labels allows these kids to choose identities on their own terms. Writer/director Clay Liford, in his endearing comedy Slash, explores these identity crises through the burgeoning world of fan-fic Comic-Con nerds as they face the real-life and online hardships of being a teen today. And it's both funny and enlightening, a nuanced yet sometimes brash look at how teens see themselves, not how adults would like to see them.
High-schooler Neil (Michael Johnston) might be gay. Or bi. Or something else. But he indulges his fantasies by writing steamy same-sex and pansexual fan-fic about a comic book hero named Vanguard. He's got eyes for the theater kid Jack (Dalton Edward Phillips), but also for the sarcastic, loudmouth Julia (Hannah Marks), whom he learns is actually a popular erotic-fan-fic writer. Julia's stuck in a relationship with a punk jerk, and her best friend Martine (Jessie Ennis) is pregnant and acerbic, poking fun at all her insecurities about dressing up (in private) as an elf. As the two grow closer, their longing and confusion bubble up in sweet little moments.
Liford is a confident writer/director who portrays teens with a rare, full-bodied humanity. These young actors give heartfelt, whip-smart performances, but Ennis in particular seems like a star ready to burst.