A Tale of Two Netflix Coming-of-Age Comedies

A Tale of Two Netflix Coming-of-Age Comedies

Luke (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), is the ringleader of a trio of freshman nerds and an aspiring filmmaker. (He’s first seen pedaling his bicycle through the small-town streets, the ur-image of the post-Spielberg coming-of-age story.) He falls hard for a girl, Kate (Peyton Kennedy), who has her own reasons for feeling alienated, and their relationship plays out during the making of a school film that brings together the losers and the cool kids.

“Everything” has easy laughs and even easier cries, with a fair bit of filler in between (it’s another example of Netflix bloat). It’s all punctuated with relentless reminders of its late 1990s period — Columbia House mailers, VCRs and Discman players, “Seinfeld,” Hot Pockets, “Run, Forrest, run.” When a character checks her Tamagotchi, it’s time to surrender.

“End,” based on a graphic novel by Charles Forsman and written by the actress Charlie Covell, pushes an entirely different set of audience buttons. It’s an on-the-road love story that raises the stakes — and tests our patience — by making its 17-year-old heroes problematic and, initially, very hard to like.

James (Alex Lawther) is a self-diagnosed psychopath who once submerged his own hand in a deep-fat fryer and now occupies himself killing small animals. Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is a load, pure and simple — angry, bored, sullen, alienated from everything and everyone. She’s drawn to James because he’s even more nihilistic than she is; he lets her tag along because he’s decided it’s time to start killing humans, and she’ll make an easy victim.

Those feelings change, as they must, while the pair cruise the country in a stolen car, skipping out on bills, shoplifting, squatting in an empty house and occasionally stumbling into more serious and violent misadventures. Each works hard to maintain a cool indifference, but Ms. Covell gives them voice-over narrations that expose their doubts and longings, and remind us that they’re just kids who got in over their heads.

That’s the real difference between the shows. (Though “End” has the edge in writing, acting — especially by Ms. Barden — and ambition.) In the American series, the children are drawn as miniature adults, putting up with their embarrassing but well-meaning parents. The British series portrays children as children, negotiating the frightening process of growing up among adults who are likely to be indifferent at best, predatory at worst. It’s eternal childhood versus childhood’s end. Either way, Netflix has you covered.

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