Meet a totally original, utterly lovable misfit

Adolescent angst is well-mined territory for writers and filmmakers. So it’s a credit to first-time filmmaker Jennifer Venditti that her documentary, Billy the Kid (available on DVD next week), feels so fresh and yet still so painfully familiar.

This Billy is a troubled and lonely 15-year-old living in rural Maine. A Van Halen enthusiast who practices karate and dreams of wooing distressed damsels, Billy’s got it rougher than most: “I’m different in the mind, different brain,” he says at the start of the film (after filming was completed, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome). Billy is twitchy or hammy in front of the camera — he’s painfully self-aware — but as he begins to court a shy girl with an eye condition (that makes her an outsider, too), Venditti wisely disappears. What’s left is a fascinating, hilarious, and heart-wrenching portrait of a boy we all have a little bit in common with.

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