Hormones seem to rule the world populated by the characters of Young and Wild, a hilarious, teenage sex romp that surprisingly goes beyond the conventions established by other movies of its genre and finds something akin to transcendence. Directed by Marialy Rivas and inspired by the sexually explicit posts of a real life Chilean blog, the film presents us the story of Daniela (Alicia Rodríguez) a 17-year-old girl trying hard to find a balance between her boundless libido and her uptight upbringing.
When the movie begins, Daniela is expelled from school for engaging in—gasp—premarital sex with one of her classmates and we can say we’d seen it coming (no pun intended) given that the movie opens with a postcoital close up of Daniela, her hands mischievously disappearing from the frame heading down towards her groin as she proceeds to pleasure herself while her companion sleeps. The girl simply can not stop herself!
She starts a blog (similar to the one that inspired Rivas and her co-writers to come up with the screenplay) in which she talks about her desires, fears, family and of course her sexcapades. She collects a legion of drooling followers who, like her, are going through the tough transition of adolescence-to-adulthood and have yet to learn how to choose between emotions and carnal desire. Like an even more crass, less metaphorically-inclined version of Sex and the City, Daniela writes about everything that pops into her mind, giving path to moments of complete hilarity which reveal that at the center of her larger than life personality she lacks all clarity about who she really is.
Rivas expertly crafts a tale in which we see religion and sex engaging in their eternal battle, but she never suggests that dogma is the only cause of Daniela’s confusion. Even though we see her in constant fights with her mother (played by Aline Küppenheim) we get a sense that she would be just as horny even if she was raised by hippies. The difference, of course, would be that she would know better than to let her boyfriend have unprotected sex with her, because she would be less scared about taboo than about the real risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy. The director shows us the underlying hypocrisy that governs strict religious beliefs but also allows us to wonder if Daniela’s desires, if left ungoverned, aren’t in a way a kind of worshipping, as well.
Things get more complicated for the heroine when she begins working in an evangelical TV station, where she instantly becomes pariah due to her outspokenness and sexual frankness. There she meets Antonia (María Gracia Omegna) and Tomás (Felipe Pinto); the former is a feisty camera woman who lets Daniela know she’s interested in trying some girl on girl action, the latter is a dashingly handsome naïve young man just waiting to be corrupted. Daniela begins seeing both of them and gets tangled in a game of deceit, lust and even more unprotected sex.
Despite all of the nudity, hilarious one liners and overall sense of perversion, Young and Wild is truly about the endless journey towards self discovery. If the film is as stylistically undisciplined as its main character (there are quick edits and more animated genitalia than you’d ever expect to see) it might be because it’s trying to express how beneath the flashy surface, there’s no real substance. Daniela doesn’t know who she is and the movie reacts to her emotions.
The film won the Screenwriting award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival—where it was also called “sacrilegious”—and the ingenious writing might be one of its major strengths. Whether it’s in Daniela’s blog posts or the comments left behind by her fans, or the moving way in which Daniela acts around her dying aunt (the touching Ingrid Isensee) as if she had discovered the maturity everyone else talks about, we can see that these characters were very well thought out. Even the ones which could’ve easily become caricature—like the foolish Tomas and a series of insane evangelists—are given the benefit of the doubt and are never harshly judged.
Young and Wild might not be a perfect movie, but it leaves one with a sense of uncomfortable nostalgia. Are we lucky to have overcome our brutish desires or is society forcing us to conceal a part of us as natural as any other need? We probably have all been Daniela and it’s refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t patronize adolescence, but instead embraces its lunacy and aimlessness. While the movie might feel like a celebration of libertine behavior, it’s actually profound in its depiction of being lost and craving nothing more than to be found.