Review by Sean Boelman
The coming-of-age genre is one of the most frequently attempted in independent filmmaking, likely because everyone can empathize with the experience of growing up, but it is also tricky to pull off for the same reason. Tony Ahedo’s Icon is compelling, but perhaps a bit too weighed down by cliches to be fully effective.
The movie follows a teenager who must come to terms with fatherhood after his girlfriend reveals to him that she is pregnant and might want to keep the kid. It’s a pretty typical story of the protagonist’s world falling apart and then coming back together, and while there is some honest emotion it.
Teen pregnancy has been an increasingly prevalent theme in recent cinema, but rarely have films been able to discuss it in a way that is both respectful and hard-hitting. While it’s nice to see movies that explore this topic once considered to be taboo, it is frustrating to see it be forced into a melodramatic arc like this.
One of the things that is really disappointing about this film is that the character development is stilted. The movie is almost entirely done from the guy’s perspective, with little care put into exploring his girlfriend’s side of things. Although the fatherhood aspect of the film is quite interesting, the fact that this is the only real focus of the movie makes it feel like something is missing.
For the most part, the acting is quite strong. There are a few scenes in which Parker Padgett’s turn feels a bit contrived, particularly in the final act, but he brings a lot of humanity to a character that isn’t written with the most nuance. Devon Hales is charming, albeit underused, as his love interest.
On the other hand, the pacing of the film is pretty inconsistent. The first half is largely a hang out movie with the pregnancy looming in the background, but the second half switches into something more akin to a crime drama. It’s entertaining, even if it doesn’t do much to add to the central emotional arc.
In a stylistic sense, the movie features a lot of the issues characteristic of teen-focused cinema. It’s an overly flashy, hyper-cool approach that saturates the film with color and a modern soundtrack in an attempt to make it feel like it is in touch with today’s youth. However, it is lacking that emotional intimacy that would have justified this.
There are definitely some strengths in Icon, but it’s a pretty conventional watch as a whole. It will come and go with the many coming-of-age indies that come out every year, but may find an audience that connects with it.
Icon screens at the Enzian Theater as part of the Florida Film Festival on April 22 at 6:30pm and is also available virtually for the duration of the festival. The 2021 Florida Film Festival runs April 8-22 in Orlando, FL.