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Ovation’s 'Millennials': A Video Album of Their Passage Through Adolescence into Adulthood
May 5, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment
 

Ovation’s new documentary series Millennials provides both a scary and an honest look at growing up in the 21st century.

Because of that honesty, Millennials – which starts Thursday at 7 p.m. ET – isn’t as disheartening as the scary parts sometimes suggest.

Filmmaker Rick Stevenson followed 22 children in his hometown of Seattle for 15 years, beginning in 2000. They’re all “Millennials,” a somewhat loose window generally defined as having been born from the late 1970s to 2000.

So he picked up their stories before they became teenagers and followed them into their mid- to late 20s.

Stevenson tried to check in on each of his subjects every year, taking a video snapshot of how they were doing, what they were thinking, how they were feeling.

In some of the early shots, they’re standing next to height measurement markings on walls, and that’s the right symbol. His goal is to measure their annual growth and progress, which after a period of time became a video album of their passage through adolescence into adulthood.

Stevenson understands that generalizations about large demographic groups, while sometimes useful, can also be misleading, since one size never fits all. So he wisely avoids trying to fit his stories into neatly packaged larger conclusions, instead letting each individual tale speak for itself.

The series runs six parts, each with three stories, and while there’s no sign he was trying to find subjects likely to develop serious problems and issues, it seems like he did.

Few of these subjects cruised through high school with just the “normal” stress about grades and fledgling romantic drama. Pretty much all of them ran into more serious obstacles.

In the first episode, Danielle (top) has been molested and turns to drugs and sex. By the end of her segment she says she’s winning the struggle to put all that into her past, but the bright red hair, the piercings and the tattoos say she’s not exactly the traditional career girl.

That same episode also includes Jonathan (above right), who gets beaten up for being gay and for a long time also beats himself up. The third subject, Jade (below right), also doesn’t like herself, which sends her to heavy drugs and bad decisions. At the end we see her raising a young daughter.

While not every story is that dramatic, all the subjects seem to feel they face an intimidating degree of difficulty about something, from depression to faith.

Collectively, Millennials comes very close to suggesting there’s no such thing as “normal,” that almost everyone is shaped by traumas they often can’t talk about.

The classic American path – go to high school, go to college, get a job, settle down and raise a family – almost feels like a myth here, even for the middle class that in theory could embrace it.

Long stretches of Millennials are disturbing, and the viewer will wonder how the subjects feel as they look back at their younger selves.

But because these often-troubling stories aren’t presented as aberrations, there’s also an undertone of reassurance – that maybe most of us go through something that knocks us off course then we find a way to get back onto our feet.

Either way, Millennials fulfills Stevenson’s original goal of making each segment feel like an individual tale. He explains up front that we all have a story, and he wanted to provide these subjects a framework in which to start telling it.

He wouldn’t be at all unhappy if the rest of us were moved to do the same.

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Mark Isenberg
As much as I respect Mr. H. who had a long run at the NY Daily News,Ovation remains an awful failed arts and culture network in the same way Trio once was but that propelled Ms.Zelaznick? to Bravo and her Housewives series of reality stunting chatter and pathos. If Millenials was to be taken seriously,it would not be on Ovation but HBO or heck,MTV but maybe MTV did this years ago in one form or another. Ovation should just go away and stop airing bad old movies forever.
May 5, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
 
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