Kids is one of those films more interested in realism than creating a traditional three-act narrative. Its running time is spent following a crew of ratty teenagers who spend their time doing drugs, having sex or trying to do either. The film exudes a grotty verisimilitude; the dialogue may be rambling and inarticulate, but true to teenager conversation (the screenplay is from Harmony Korine, who directed Spring Breakers).
Often the authenticity of these shaggy films is little more than an artistic exercise, but Kids has a dark, malevolence oozing under the surface, a jaggedness that carries extra heft thanks to the film’s believability. It’s personified in the form of Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick, who went on to play a hopeless junkie in The Wire), a charmless, detestable youth with a taste for pubescent virgins. His presence alone is enough to inspire revulsion; but as you watch the film a cold weight grows in your chest, a horrible feeling that extends its tendrils … once you learn of the HIV that courses through his veins. If you’re looking for an effective after-school special to promote safe sex, look no further. Like real life, there’s no neat conclusion here; just a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste.