Based on a book of short stories by James Franco, Gia Coppola's impressive directorial debut is a nuanced character study of a group of Californian teens navigating the peaks and troughs of adolescence.
A veritable who's who of Hollywood veterans and their talented progeny, the film stars James Franco, Emma Roberts (niece of Julia) and Jack Kilmer (playing alongside his father Val).
April (Roberts) is thoughtful and reflective. She's in love with skater boy Teddy (Kilmer) but falls headlong into a dalliance with her handsome football coach (Franco). Meanwhile Teddy runs in and out of trouble alongside his best friend Fred (Nat Wolff), crashing parties, cars and engaging in random acts of public vandalism. Their peers are also making exploratory steps into adulthood pushing boundaries and discovering who they are.
Coppola's intimate observational style bears resemblance to the films of her Aunt Sofia but is no cheap imitation. Drifting in and out of the individual stories, the world she creates is stunningly real, punctuated with blissful cinematic moments - steam rising off a pool, cars drifting through the night.
Anchored by standout performances, Palo Alto marks the arrival of some extraordinary new talents on both sides of the camera.