Posted on November 12, 2021

In anticipation of the screening of our November Global Perspectives selection, THE HAND OF GOD, the CIFF staff got to thinking about their favourite, or formative, coming-of-age films. Their picks, outlined below, are rife with all kinds of teen angst, pimply realizations and life-changing awkwardness.

hand of god

Global Perspectives, CIFF


First up is our aforementioned Global Perspectives film, THE HAND OF GOD. While not a personal staff pick, this is a quintessential coming-of-age film with a lot of heart that would be a great watch.

It’s the 1980s and 17-year old Fabietto Schisa might be an awkward Italian teen struggling to find his place, but he finds joy in an amazing family who love life, relish mischief and take deep pleasure in meddling in one another’s complicated relationships. Then comes a pair of events that alter everything. One is the triumphant arrival in Naples of a god-like athletic legend: high-flying soccer idol Maradona, who has Fabietto, and the whole scrappy city, feeling pride that once seemed impossible. The other is an inconceivable accident that will drop the bottom out of Fabietto’s world—setting his future in motion. Seemingly saved by Maradona, touched by chance or the hand of God, Fabietto wrestles with the nature of fate, the confusion of loss, and the intoxicating freedom of being alive.

We will be screening this film in-cinema November 17th, 7:00 PM at Globe Cinema! GET TICKETS

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Brian Owens, Artistic Director


While it came out long after I was a teen, SING STREET is my favourite film that depicts the 1980s. Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a 15-year-old Dubliner. As a result of the recession, his family moves him from a private school into a neighbourhood school run by strict Catholic priests. Raphina (Lucy Boynton) is an orphaned teen and aspiring model living in a home across the street from the new school. When he sets eyes upon her, he approaches her and invites her to be in his band's new music video. The only problem, Conor isn't in a band and there is no video scheduled to be made.

While the meet-cute sounds like any other teenage love story, it's where SING STREET goes from there that makes the movie stand out. Raphina thinks Conor is cute but has no real romantic interest in him. What she does find interesting is his growing passion for the music he creates with his friends. The songs they write together continuously improve as the movie progresses. The idea of boy-meets-girl is upended and turned into a boy-meets-the passion of his life. The final concert scene is elegiac, bringing to life the dreams we had as teenagers to strike out on our own and pursue them while they were still fresh and inspiring.

In 2016, I saw SING STREET in theatres five times and it's still a go-to when I need a lift and I listen to the soundtrack on a regular basis. (NOTE: along with the original songs, there are works from Duran Duran, The Cure, Joe Walsh, M, Hall & Oates and The Jam.) Even though I grew up in a small town in Indiana, I could still see myself in Conor, in his dreams, aspirations and in his battles against those that want to break him down...and I hope and think a lot of people would.


Adam Keresztes, Shorts Programmer


This is the debut feature film by Richard Ayoade (TRAVEL MAN, GADGET MAN, IT CROWD). Oliver, a teen struggling to find love, plans on losing his virginity before his 16th birthday to his feisty classmate Jordana. Oliver's father, a depressed marine biologist, is struggling to maintain his marriage as his wife, while Oliver's mother is increasingly charmed by a spiritual guru living down the road. The style is clearly influenced by French New Wave but brings it to the 21st century resulting in a lost-in-time feel. This was one of the last movies I saw at the beloved Uptown Theatre.

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Lucia Juliao, Partnerships & Donations Manager

LADY BIRD (2017)

This coming-of-age story is incredibly relatable and is elevated by the amazing performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe. In this film, Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is a high school senior from the "wrong side of the tracks". She longs for adventure, sophistication and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. This movie follows the title character's senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play and most importantly, her applying for college. 


Morgan Cairns, Marketing Manager


BOOKSMART is truly one of the funniest films I have ever seen. An incredible debut film from Olivia Wilde that proves Beanie Feldstein is a national treasure that must be protected at all costs.

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL. Directed by Marielle Heller and featuring an incredible breakout performance from Bel Powley, DOATG is that one film that I recommend to anyone. Based on Pheobe Gloeckner's novel of the same name, the film follows 15-year-old Minnie, an aspiring cartoonist, who enters an affair with her mother's boyfriend. Set in 1970s San Francisco, DOATG is visually delicious with its retro charm and features stunning hand-drawn animations that add to the beauty of this complex and provocative coming-of-age story.

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Gaby Aguilar, Marketing Content Coordinator


August 25, 1991. Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you would listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.

Charlie, expertly portrayed by Logan Lerman, is a green young man attempting to recover from his best friend’s suicide by writing letters to no one, as recommended by his therapist. With the help of his new, more ‘seasoned’ older friends, he is welcomed into the island of misfit toys that is teenhood. In this whirlwind freshman year, Charlie discovers drugs, girls, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a devastating repressed, childhood memory.

I first read PERKS at age 12 in anticipation of the release of the film, featuring Emma Watson, whom I love dearly. If you’ve ever read the book you’re probably cringing and rightfully so, 12 is too young to read this book or watch this movie. I want to preface that this is not a fun film, though Ezra Miller tries his damndest to make it so. This film multitasks like no other teen film you’ve ever seen; tackling mental health, suicide, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, drug use and unrequited love then ending in a neat little stint at the psych ward. It’s blunt, it's gritty, it doesn’t put a pink, Molly Ringwald-filter over reality like the sticky teen films of the '80s. This is the perfect film for an impatient young person who just wants to be told all of the ugly things at once. For the young person who learns best by being dropkicked into the deep end of the pool and told to swim. 


David Drinnan, Marketing and Engagement Coordinator


This is a wholesome movie that deals with high school relationships but is unique in that it goes beyond romantic or friendship relations. Family drama, teacher drama and overall identity issues are at the forefront of this movie. Coming out in 2017, when I was still a teen, and focusing on contemporary issues, this film brought further relevance to my life.

Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), who is already at peak awkwardness when her all-star older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until the unexpected friendship of a thoughtful boy (Hayden Szeto) gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all.

There are some incredible movies here that could be a great recommendation for the youngsters in your life or could be a great chance to reminisce on your teen years and pat yourself on the back for making it through. Either way, these films prove that there's a lot more to growing up than letting time pass.

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