Starring: Drew Benjamin Jones, Kathleen Normington, Julian Huguet
Directed by: Robert Krakower (debut)
Written by: Robert Krakower (debut)

As a 17-year-old kid who has been homeschooled his entire life, Tobiah (Drew Benjamin Jones) gets a taste of life outside his bubble when he meets Joey, (Sam Martin) a rebellious teenager in “Always Learning,” an exceedingly lighthearted coming-of-age film.

In his first film role Jones is surprisingly good, able to perfectly capture the awkwardness of a teen unfamiliar with certain social situations, yet so curious to get a taste. “Always Learning” is largely defined by its relationships, which tend to vary in success. The strongest of these is Tobiah’s relationship with his mother Cheryl (Kathleen Normington), with whom he constantly butts heads with over his personal freedoms. As their relationship gets more intense and Tobiah gets more and more fed up with the protection from his mother, that relationship also becomes more complex and the conversations between the two are well-written and great to watch. Other relationships are a mixed bag, with his relationships with both new friend Joey and Joey’s sister Samantha (Michelle Foletta) starting strong, but falling apart towards the end of the film.

First time director, and former homeschooler himself Robert Krakower doesn’t get everything right. The motives and actions of his characters in the big dramatic climax scene are on loose ground and are somewhat hard to latch onto. Still, there’s a lot to like in this slight indie dramedy and it is certainly refreshing to see a coming-of-age film that isn’t entirely reliant on sex, drugs and alcohol, but rather a kid experiencing life free from the shackles of his mother for the first time.

“Always Learning” screens on Saturday, October 26th at 3:15 at Alamo Drafthouse Village and on Monday, August 26th at 7:30 PM The Hideout Theatre as a part of Austin Film Festival 2013. 

For more Austin Film Festival Coverage, click here. 

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