Susan Skoog`s Whatever is the antithesis of the early movies of John Hughes, like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. They all pinpoint those high school years of the early 80`s where childhood is about to be left behind and real life begins. But Skoog is intent on portraying those years with a bleak honesty. The families in Whatever are dysfunctional... Anna`s father has long gone and she despises her mother`s desperate attempts to find a new man - while Brenda`s stepfather is sexually abusive. Skoog doesn`t sensationalise these scenarios, it seems almost normal that behind the white picket fences there`s so much pain. Brenda`s urgent drive to find a way out of home drags Anna - who`s potentially a talented artist - along in her wake... This is a time of confusion for both - when sex, drugs and rock`n`roll are all part of the often clumsy attempts to discover just who they are... Some may see Whatever as a one-note symphony to adolescent angst, but there`s something nourishing about a film that charts a dangerous course through this critical time in young people`s lives. Skoog`s heroine Anna, played with deadpan intensity by Liza Weil, could have stepped out of a Rohmer film, she`s so sullen and indecisive, seemingly hell-bent on her own disintegration. Chad Morgan`s Brenda is pathetically vibrant and believably pragmatic about her use of sex and men`s use of her. Visually Skoog reflects the matter-of-fact approach to her story, although in one scene where Anna OD`s on drugs and alcohol you`re right there with her in the distortion. There`s cruelty and compassion in this film particularly in the relationship between Anna and her mother, a really impressive Kathryn Rossiter.