I really liked Terri because I didn’t always like Terri. Too many films about the high school outsider romanticize the character into becoming cooler than Ferris Bueller. In this movie, Terri is a nice enough guy. He cares for his uncle (Creed Bratton) who is suffering from dementia without every complaining. However, his social awkwardness and anger cause him to act harsh to people who are trying to be nice to him.
After being late to too many classes and only wearing his pajamas to school, Terri Thompson (Jacob Wysocki) is sent to visit with Assistant Principal Fitzpatrick (John C. Reilly). Realizing that Terri needs help, Fitzpatrick decides to meet with him every Monday morning just to talk.
The film could have easily gone down the path of Good Will Hunting, but that wouldn’t fit this movie. Neither of the characters are smart enough for one thing. They not as articulate about what they want to convey, but that’s fine. A good friend tries to always say the best thing, even if they can’t.
Terri’s high school is more centered in reality than most of what’s in the multiplex. Kids are cruel, but apathy is the tougher treatment. Terri spends his time mostly alone walking around trying to find anything that interests him. His talks with Mr. Fitzpatrick provide a little bit of hope, but plenty of new frustrations.
Everyone is wonderfully realized, especially the other kids who end up talking to Terri. Their flaws aren’t opportunities for easy plot points, but ways to create a stronger character. We don’t see their home life or anything about them when they’re not with Terri, but director Azazel Jacobs infers a lot thanks to strong filmmaking. It’s an atmosphere where the young actors are allowed to be organic which often causes for more pauses and confusion.
The film makes subtle references to films like Kes and The 400 Blows and it earns the comparison. I knew plenty of Terri’s in high school, but I don’t know the rest of the story. This is a character rich enough that I would love to see a reunion with him in ten and twenty years. Clearly the film has love for the character and what Wysocki brought to him because the closing credits begin with them and then has a card for the director.
This is a charming independent film that doesn’t have to be quirky or full of pop songs in order to be heartwarming.