‘NEVER GOIN’ BACK’ director takes us back to days of youth, rebellion

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

Dallas filmmaker Augustine Frizzell knows teenagers rebel.

She made a film loosely based on her own upbringing that’s filled with the complexities of youth and that need to upset the established order, titled NEVER GOIN’ BACK.

“You do have so many memories associated with a time in your life that was difficult, and you maybe were doing things that were energetically very bad,” Frizzell said. “I think it’s a combination of reasons [why we rebel], and it could be hormonal. We have all these crazy hormones going on when we’re teens. But if I were to do anything wrong now, I get this immediate sense of dread, this horrible heavy feeling that ruins my day. All of us can look back and find great nostalgia in our teen youth experience.”

Augustine Frizzell, director of ‘NEVER GOIN’ BACK.’ Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Atheena Frizzell.

In NEVER GOIN’ BACK, Frizzell shapes this idea into a highly entertaining, thoughtful and measured snapshot of today’s youth culture. Through the story of two teenage girls we are able live vicariously and project ourselves on screen, as well as identify with the comedy, devastation and truth that comes with growing up in such a pressured society.

Our protagonists are Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone), two high school dropouts who waitress at a low-key breakfast diner. They live with Jessie’s drug-dealing brother, Dustin (Joel Allen), and embrace a free-spirited lifestyle. This includes staying up late, smoking weed and fantasizing about life somewhere other than the small Texas town they inhabit. (Trivia: The film was shot in and around Garland and Fort Worth.)

This is no big Hollywood sort of plot. Similar to Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED, it’s about teens simply trying to get somewhere and enjoy the wild ride on their way there. Instead of trying to get to an Aerosmith concert, Angela and Jessie are heading to Galveston for a beach getaway. It’s more about how days just bleed together. We see pointless moments where the characters complain about how they’re out of toilet paper or poke fun at how many bites Gary Busey takes of a meatball sandwich in the movie POINT BREAK.

“I have so many absurd stories,” Frizzell said. “I don’t know if it’s the karma I’ve accumulated or what, but you will just have these little moments that happen in your life that you can pull from at any given moment. Sometimes in the path and journey of the characters these real-life moments find their way in.”

Both Frizzell and her husband, filmmaker David Lowery (A GHOST STORY and the upcoming OLD MAN AND THE GUN), often pull from their own lives to tell the stories they want to tell. Frizzell pointed out one scene in Lowery’s A GHOST STORY that her husband wanted to use in a previous film, but couldn’t find a place for it. However, it worked in A GHOST STORY.

“It’s hard to say people don’t take from their own lives. It doesn’t have to be an exact replica of the thing that happened in your life. It’s more about that moment and how it made you feel. [Lowery] and I live a life of movies, almost exclusively. It’s kind of sad,” Frizzell joked.

Camila Morrone, left, and Maia Mitchell portray two high school dropouts trying to escape their structured lives for a beach vacation. Courtesy photo.

Frizzell also said Lowery encouraged her to push the envelope further when she was writing NEVER GOIN’ BACK.

“It’s funny. I make fun of [Lowery] a lot, because, based off the kind of work he does, people have this perception that he’s this serious, really brooding artist, when in fact he’s not. Just the other day he found this Hogwarts Lego set and I told him he could get it, but he had to finish it before Christmas, so we could make it part of our Christmas decorations,” Frizzell said. “He’s a total dork and has such a crazy potty mouth sense of humor. You would never guess that. And because he doesn’t have that persona, he would tell me to go even harder with my work.”

While NEVER GOIN’ BACK sees its characters getting caught in some bizarre and hilarious shenanigans, it’s a film that really has a profound effect on the viewer. If you really want to understand the film, you need to think back on your own days of adolescence.

Frizzell’s film doesn’t exist for high school kids, as the plot might suggest. Why would they need it? They live there. Instead, it exists for all the people who have already been through it and feel above it. It’s here so we can remember what it was like and to better understand ourselves. As funny and entertaining as it is to send our smiles toward the actors on screen, NEVER GOIN’ BACK establishes a bridge between the you today and the you then. It’s fantastic.

NEVER GOIN’ BACK is now playing in select theaters.
Dallas: At the Magnolia Theatre.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.