Scout (India Ennenga) and her younger sister Tallulah (Onata Aprile), named after Demi Moore’s two daughters, both live with their ailing grandmother Mary (Ellen Burstyn). Scout is far from your typical teenager. Filled with a rebellious spirit, she is the type of individual who would rather steal something even if she had the money to pay for it. While Scout may not care for structure or authority, the one thing she does care deeply about is her sister. Forced to take on a more maternal role after their mother passed away, Scout tries her best to provide for her sibling.
Unfortunately for the pair, their life takes an unexpected turn when child services begins to look into their living situation. Fearing that the girls will be separated, Mary calls their estranged father Ray, a carny who lives out of a trailer with his pregnant drug using girlfriend Georgie (Nikki Reed), to take the girls in. However, motivated by the opportunity to weasel some money out of the government, Ray sneaks off with Tallulah, also known as Lulu, without telling Scout. Determined to be reunited her sister, Scout convinces Sam (James Frecheville), a suicidal mental patient from a wealthy family, who she and Lulu first met only days earlier, to accompany her on a road trip across Texas to track down Lulu.
By all accounts Laurie Weltz’s About Scout has all the ingredients needed to make a compelling coming-of–age road movie. However, surprisingly, the film does not quite meld into that delicious dish audiences hope it would. The film’s narrative features long stretches where nothing of note actually happens. While Weltz takes her time in developing the bonds of friendship between Scout and Sam, she never truly gives the audience a sufficient reason to care about the characters in the first place.
Their road trip feels as if it was brought together via narrative convenience rather than anything else. Scout does not hesitate to seek out Sam’s assistance; despite barely knowing anything more than he is a cute guy trying to escape from a mental institution. Yes, both characters are damaged souls longing for the family unit they don’t have, but it takes more than half the film before the audience truly feels like know Scout and Sam as individuals. Frankly, this issue plays out in other areas of the film as well. Although the film features a strong cast–Danny Glover and Jane Seymour also appear in small but key roles–Weltz never spends enough time with the supporting characters to truly flesh out the various relationships in the film.
For a film so concerned with family bonds, it feels odd that audience is only given a surface level taste of those who played a role in shaping Scout and Sam’s lives to this point.
Fortunately for the film, the performances manage to maintain the viewers interest throughout. India Ennenga is wonderful as the rebellious Scout. Displaying a charisma that will hopefully ensure a long and lively career, Ennenga does a good job of bringing out the subtle layers of her character. She consistently reminds the audience of all the things About Scout could have been if the script was a bit more refined. There is a great film buried within its fragmented plot, one that could have shown itself had Weltz given her supporting characters room to breathe and grow.