Boys State was the Sundance Grand Jury winner for Documentaries that was picked up by Apple and popular indie production company A24, and the documentary follows the annual week-long program of Boys State (in particular Boys State Texas, although the program has iterations for both genders and in all states), in which over 1000 teenage boys gather to run a mock government. While the concept seems like it may not particularly lend itself to the cinematic experience, believe me when I say the film is quite the opposite. Boys State is one of the most thrilling, emotional, and as a whole fascinating recent experiences in film. Directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine manage to perfectly capture the spirit of the event and really bring the audience there with the boys. Once the film transports us there, it then presents the audience with a surprisingly broad range of perspectives and shows us an unfiltered look into the inner workings of the convention. It unravels its subjects as deftly as the best narrative films develop their characters, and as someone who hasn’t seen nearly enough documentaries and is mainly unfamiliar with the world of them, this obliterated any notion that documentaries may be harder to connect with than most narrative features. Boys State excites, compels, worries, and endears, again, as effectively, if not more, than most narrative features. Outside of a filmmaking perspective, the doc offers a glimpse into a whole generation, utilizing perspective to show us multiple points of view. I will say that the film loses a bit of its steam around the middle chunk, once it really settles into the brunt of the event, but it quickly regains this with its hopeful, poignant ending.
Boys State is one of the best movies of the year, serving up a story as satisfying and rich as any, crafting a sharp image of the upcoming generation of leaders, and giving the audience an unobscured look at this Texan microcosm of the current political landscape.