Movie review: ‘Teenage’ — 3.5 stars

Documentary by Matt Wolf

Opens Friday at Landmark Sunshine

Not Rated

In his 1884 Memorial Day address, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously said of his generation that “in our youth, our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing.”

The future Supreme Court justice was speaking of the Civil War generation and his experience serving in the Union Army, but taken another way his words stand as a definitive testament to the teenage years, that heady time alive with hope and possibility, when we start questioning the truths to which we have been accustomed and discover our place in the world.

For most of recorded history, though, the modern concept of teenager simply didn’t exist. There was childhood, then adulthood, and that was that.

Matt Wolf’s documentary “Teenage,” a collage of period footage and home movies, first-person narration culled from real teenagers and re-enactments, chronicles the birth of the culturally transformative notion that the interim years should be spent learning and exploring, rebelling and feeling things out.

It’s a fascinating endeavor, set between 1904 and 1945, with amazing images of young people from a multitude of backgrounds culled from across the globe and set to an engaging score by Bradford Cox.

We see flappers, the earliest Boy Scouts, anti-Nazi Germans, young Depression-era workers, androgynous partiers, swing dancers and more. The fire of youth has rarely seemed more acute.