Mid90s (15)***

Dir: Jonah Hill

With: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia

Runtime: 85 minutes

SOME take the traditional route to directing: messing around with a camera as a youngster, going to film school, years of toiling at the assistant director coalface.

Others put the time in before the cameras, and by virtue of their success convince others they are worth leaving in charge of the train set.

Jonah Hill, double Oscar-nominated for Wolf of Wall Street and Moneyball, is in the latter camp, though he did write plays at college. So how does he do?

Better than most, certainly. For a while, Mid90s, which opened the Glasgow Film Festival in February, looked like being the usual underwhelming result when actors turn directors: a series of partly baked scenes held together with a tracks-of-my-years soundtrack. But what do you know, Hill has picked up a lot more on film sets than the art of telling jokes.

His coming-of-age tale is set in LA in the 1990s, where 13-year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) is not having the best of times. Bullied by his older brother (the always terrific Lucas Hedges, Oscar-nominated for Manchester by the Sea) and babied by his mother, he has no friends of his own. When he sees a group of skateboarders fooling around and having fun he hangs around in their shadow until the band of brothers notices him.

Hill’s screenplay tries to go deeper than the usual debut director’s offerings, at times convincingly (both sons are a messy bundle of hurt and resentment), at other points not (the poor mother, as ever, gets the blame, though it is never entirely clear why).

The ending, too, cannot resist the temptation to tie everything up in a nice, neat bow. But this is a very impressive piece by Hill, well paced, gorgeously shot, with an eye for detail and an ear for authentic speech. Above all, he has chosen well in a young cast who give it their all, Suljic and Na-kel Smith in particular.