It’s been a minute since I’ve seen a teen coming of age that I thoroughly loved and enjoyed through and through. The last couple I can think of was last years’ Chemical Hearts and Spontaneous; but like I said, it’s been a minute. When asked if I wanted to check out The Ultimate Playlist of Noise before it’s release, I was probably a little more excited than I usually would have been for what seems like a cheesy teen romcom due to a lack of them recently. I’m pleased to say I had every reason to be excited about this one because it absolutely delivered and was a delight from beginning to end.
Ultimate Playlist of Noise follows Marcus (Euphoria’s Keean Johnson), a high schooler obsessed with audio who comes to learn that he will soon be completely deaf after his upcoming surgery. Thus beginning his playlist of all his favourite noises he wants to record for others to listen to when there comes a day where he can’t. Accompanying him is Wendy (The Handmaid’s Tale’s Madeline Brewer), an aspiring artist who hitches a ride with Marcus on his road trip.
A fear of mine when Wendy came into the picture was that the story was going to lose focus of Marcus’ journey of remembering all these beautiful noises and enjoying the little things before it’s too late, and ultimately turn into some romance film instead. It was already becoming a little too unpredictable but it never ventures anywhere it doesn’t need to go. Although Marcus thinks he’s falling for her – I mean he’s a teenage boy on a trip with a very attractive woman so, of course, he does – I got more out of their chemistry and them being exactly what the other needs in that particular moment in time. Too often do coming of ages with a straight teenage boy leading the story turns into a ridiculous romance where the boy has this unrealistic view of his crush and has a complete mental breakdown when she strays from who he wanted her to be. It’s even more irritating when they end up together in the end. This wasn’t like that at all.
The script may have been a tad bit cheesy in the middle and at a certain point I did fear I wasn’t going to enjoy the last act as much as the beginning, but I have to compliment this film on it’s ending. Its “all is lost” moment where everything starts to fall apart and go to complete shit threw so many curve balls at me. I applaud this film on going deeper into its discussions on mental illness and more importantly, the way our minds choose to portray the past in our present. Without spoiling exactly how that comes into play, we’re forced to watch our protagonist deal with the fact that how he remembers the past, isn’t always the truth; and ultimately we can’t hold the people we look up to at impossible standards and then hold their faults against them upon learning them. Every coming of age has a list of messages and morals to share within their run time, and that is one that’ll stick with me after this movie.
Now as good as the storytelling was, the two leads deserve just as much praise. Keean Johnson and Madeline Brewer are great as Marcus and Wendy. Their chemistry is sweet and funny, playing off each other very well; but it’s Keean Johnson who just completely breaks your heart in the end. And while Ultimate Playlist may not be the next big coming of age hit, it never tries to be. It’s an enjoyable story of what it means to lose something you love, and how to rebuild yourself afterwards. Hearing or not, life is a beautiful thing that can be enjoyed no matter what; just in a different way.