Adventures of Sebastian Cole [1998]

Writer-director Tod Williams's pleasantly flawed film, like his title character, drifts amiably along, full of untapped possibilities. Adrian Grenier has a slouchy charisma as Sebastian, a teenager in upstate New York who is tired of school and realizes that the world only expects him to "get a haircut, pay taxes, [and] die." When his compassionate stepfather Hank (a serenely collected Clark Gregg) decides to live his life as a woman named Henrietta, it's only one more thing to challenge Sebastian's slowly developing worldview ("You care about too many people," his father tells him). Williams can't nudge his quirky musings into something larger, and the sex-change business becomes too much a dramatic contrivance, but the film moves with an affectingly low-key assurance. Better, Williams inspires his lead to convey without sentiment something rare in teen stories: unassuming, real affection for other human beings. --Steve Wiecking

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