Early into The Young Kieslowski, Brian (Ryan Malgarini) ponders whether he’s wearing a sign that says “Never Been Laid,” since everyone seems to know he’s a virgin. The sentiment more or less captures the broad level on which writer-director Kerem Sanga pitches his more-awkward-than-most teen-sex dramedy. Unfortunately, this isn’t a biopic following the early years of Krzysztof, but another effort to explain how difficult it is to be a young, white, smart, non-disfigured, upper-middle-class male.
Brian is a freshman at the California Institute of Technology, where he ambles around with fellow undergrad Cho (Osric Chau), in pursuit of a future or, really, just a girl to go home with for the night. Brian gets his chance when he meets the tipsy Leslie (Haley Lu Richardson), also a virgin, at a party. She tells him she’s saving herself for marriage; he explains he has no ideological reasons for retaining his v-card. Nevertheless, both find themselves swept up in the moment (and the alcohol) and end up back at her place, where they slow fuck to indie rock.
Actually, it’s the movie that offers the music during sex, and it’s a key point in discerning the The Young Kieslowski’s often muddled take on this material. Sanga cranks the music loud, allowing the film itself to revel in Brian and Leslie’s moments of bliss rather than taking a stricter vantage point regarding either issues of consent or youthful desires. These would be lesser points were this about its characters discovering a sexual identity; instead, when Leslie announces she’s pregnant with twins, focus turns to each teen’s respective parents. Barbara (Melora Walters), Brian’s mom, has cancer, so he’s hesitant to tell her. After explaining he’s bringing someone home for dinner, she says, “Oh, is it your Korean friend?” It’s one of the film’s few explicit gestures toward race or class, but something Sanga isn’t interested in lingering on. Instead, there are sitcom-level antics involving Walter (James Le Gros), Leslie’s dad, who steadily repeats “god dammit” after learning his daughter’s “news.”
The Young Kieslowski deserves mild praise for modest accomplishments; for example, it isn’t afraid to utter the word “abortion,” something that can’t be said for Knocked Up, where even the prospect of termination is never explored. Less worthy of accolades is Sanga’s confusing treatment of Leslie, whose psychology and religious convictions are never fully explored. Sanga may be attempting to find a two-pronged effect for her character, eliciting fear and fascination in Brian, but either way all of her actions are straightforwardly in service of further addressing his conflictions regarding career and family.