In The Art of Getting By (2011), George (Freddie Highmore), a high school senior living in New York City, falls into a fatalistic funk. Although he is a gifted artist, he realizes that he’s going to die some day and asks himself: What is the point of trying? Seeing no point, he gives up working on his school assignments, skips class and tests and just skates by as a loner. Facing this failure, he is placed on academic probation.
Skipping out to the school roof, he encounters Sally (Emma Roberts), also a senior, smoking a cigarette, but when a teacher discovers them, George pretends that he was the one smoking so that Sally doesn’t get blamed.
Although he remains aloof, Sally finally pierces his loneliness and pals around with him. In an effort to get his affection, she flirts with the adult artist who has inspired him and dances with her ex at a party, which only prompts George to get drunk and fall asleep in an alley.
Although the film mostly concentrates on their effort to figure out their relationship, it ultimately addresses the question of why we try… why we go on… and it does so very well.
There are excellent performances by young British actor Highmore as George and by Roberts as Sally. They really make what might have been a run-of-the-mill coming of age story into something quite engaging that piques interest, develops a certain amount of honest tension and delivers a very satisfactory conclusion. As coming-of-age movies go, this one isn’t bad at all.
There are likeable kids, a good plot, it is well directed, with great music and great shots of New York City. All in all, it’s a very good film. I highly recommend it.