While Boyhood’s Texas is awash with pop songs, suburbs and perpetual summer, Petting Zoo offers a Texas no less alluring but with dilapidated cars in yards, feral cats and wild unsupervised childhoods. Layla is 17 years of age, comfortable with her body, bright in school and mature beyond her years, except when it comes to knowing what to do with her life, or boys for that matter. When she becomes pregnant, her estranged parents refuse to consent to an abortion (a requirement for under-18s) and so she is forced to have the baby – a decision that looks set to dictate her future. Debut director Magee avoids all clichés in this languid observational feature, with an authenticity born of the Texan native’s own struggle with teen pregnancy. Devon Keller captivates as Layla, while the film’s collaborators include producer Athina Rachel Tsangari (Chevalier, Attenberg) and cinematographer Armin Dierolf, who wistfully captures the rough beauty of the environment. - Tricia Tuttle (BFI London Film Festival)
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