It's Halloween 1997, and the last day of school for Corey (Toby Wallace), Jango (Justin Holborow) and their gang of skateboarding mates. The plan is to dress up, roam the streets, and party like school's out forever. But Corey, who is already thinking of leaving his school friends behind (by studying photography in New York), has a spat with Jango early in the evening and decides to escape sooner rather than later.
After ditching his friends, Corey stumbles upon Jonah (Gulliver McGrath), an old childhood friend and now a victim of Jango's relentless bullying. Jonah guilt trips Corey into walking him home. And that's when things get a bit kooky. As they walk through the dark suburban streets, they swap ghost stories, transporting them back to their childhood and forcing them to confront their future.
There are interludes as Corey stops to visits his girlfriend, Romany (Mitzi Ruhlmann), and when Corey and Jonah must escape the clutches of Jango and his gang, who are upset about Corey leaving them. But when that's all done, it's back into the surreal.
Directed by Nicholas Verso, Boys in the Trees seeks to tell a coming-of-age story in a less than usual manner. But ignoring the flashy symbolism, which at times is entertaining, the film lapses into the usual when it comes to characters and how they behave. There's no subtlety to the fact that Corey wants to escape Jango, and no hiding that Jango's life has probably peaked during high school.
The film was shot in South Australia, and although the streetscapes have been rendered entirely generic, the cinematography is often dazzling and many of the fantasy scenes are spectacularly lively on the big screen. The soundtrack is a tribute to the 90s - Spiderbait, Garbage, Dinosaur Jr - with a lot of film clip-like segments crammed into the start of the film.
But for all its glitter, Boys in the Trees is trapped by characters who are one-dimensional and a story without much behind it. It's all kind of obvious from the start, with goodies and baddies and others who simply stand by and say exactly what you would expect them to stay. There's just not enough at stake to match the fantasy.