FIVE OF THE BEST: Child performances

20 Aug

stanley - magnolia

1. Jeremy Blackman – Stanley Spector in Magnolia (1999)
Although his genius is confirmed by his record-breaking winning streak on a ‘children vs. adults’ quiz show, lonely Stanley Spector dodges the cliche precociousness found amongst many other child roles. Ignored and misunderstood by those around him, Blackman manages to convey not only a believable and touching sadness to the audience, but more importantly, a determined inner strength. Holding his own against an impressive ensemble cast in one of the best scenes of the film, Stanley informs his callouss father, quite simply, that “he needs to be nicer to him”. Only the coldest heart could possibly disagree.

hayley - hard candy2. Ellen Page – Hayley Stark in Hard Candy (2005)
As a pregnant hipster in the indie darling Juno, Page displayed a kind of sunny charm that seemed to come to her so naturally, it could be argued that she was maybe playing herself. However, her versatility is well proven here as the sardonic Hayley, a scheming teen with a vendetta against suspected paedophile Jeff. The quiet intensity of Page’s anger lifts occasionally hammy dialogue, and despite her diminutive figure, her power over Jeff is rarely in doubt.

annie - lovely and amazing3. Raven Goodwin – Annie Marks in Lovely & Amazing (2001)
Adopted into a bewildering upper-class white world, it is clear that life is, and will continue to be, hard for overweight African American child Annie. Her role models – two much older sisters and her adoptive mother – are dysfunctional and neurotic, and a carer found through a ‘big sister’ program refuses to continue their relationship after Annie tells a racial joke. Despite these moments of lashing out at the cruel world around her, Goodwin’s doe-eyed smile and undeniable charisma make her a lovable and memorable character.


son_of_rambow_movie_image__2_-14. Bill Milner & Will Poulter – Will Proudfoot and Leigh Carter in Son of Rambow (2007)
Although the story of the misfit nerd befriending the seemingly tough school bully is certainly nothing new, Rambow is a charming version of the lion and the mouse fable. Milner (as the slight and sheltered Will) and Poulter (as the rough around the edges Leigh) develop a believable bond and effect each other in a way that is both genuine and touching. Solid performances from Milner and Poulter ensure that Rambow steers clear of unbearable sentimentality or cliche pap.

tracey - 135. Evan Rachel Wood – Tracey Freeland in Thirteen (2003)
Although co-star Nikki Reed also delivers a solid performance as vampy, sexually promiscuous rebel Evie Samora, it is Wood who shines in this almost anti-coming-of-age film. A make-over movie with a difference, Tracey’s swift transformation (or disintegration) from unassuming nerd into a rebellious, pill-popping, thong-wearing nightmare is both painful and mesmerising to watch. A vivid mess of anger, dangerous curiosity, determination and confusion, it is hard to know whether to hug or lock up this Lolita of the new age.


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